Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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15 mg capsaicin taken before workout makes more intensive strength training possible

Bodybuilders and other strength athletes who take a supplement containing 15 mg capsaicin 45 minutes before their workout are able to get more reps out of their sets - and can thus train more intensively. Brazilian sports scientists at Sao Paulo State University discovered this.

The researchers got 10 trained men to do squats on two occasions. On both occasions the participants did 4 sets at 70 percent of the weight with which they could just manage 1 rep. Between sets they rested for one and a half minutes.

On one occasion the participants took 12 mg capsaicin 45 minutes before starting the workout; on the other occasion they took a placebo. "This timing was selected because capsaicin reaches peak concentrations 45 minutes following supplementation [J Med Assoc Thai. 2009 Jan;92(1):108-13.], the half-life of capsaicin is approximately 25 minutes, and full clearance from the plasma occurs approximately 105 min following supplementation [J Control Release. 2014 Dec 28;196:96-105.]," the Brazilians explained.

The participants completed more reps during their sets when they had taken capsaicin.

15 mg capsaicin taken before workout makes more intensive strength training possible

Supplementation with capsaicin increased the training volume. And despite this, the participants reported less fatigue rather than more when they used capsaicin.

15 mg capsaicin taken before workout makes more intensive strength training possible

Supposed mechanism
The Brazilians put forward three theories that might explain the performance enhancing effect of capsaicin. One is that capsaicin inhibits pain stimuli.

15 mg capsaicin taken before workout makes more intensive strength training possible
"Topical capsaicin has been used as a pain reliever in neuropathic conditions and sufficient doses of capsaicin that activate the TRPV1 receptor have been shown to possess analgesic effects by inactivating or desensitizing primary affect nerve endings as a result of calcium overload," they wrote.

According to another theory, capsaicin stimulates the contraction of muscle fibres. "The ergogenic effects of capsaicin on resistance exercise performance observed in the present study may have been through the modulation of the TRPV1 channel," wrote the researchers. "The activation of this receptor in skeletal muscle increases calcium release by sarcoplasmic reticulum [PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58673.] leading to greater interaction of actin-myosin filaments and greater tension generation [Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014 May 15;306(10):E1110-9.]."

"In addition, an increase in CNS activity and epinephrine secretion via activation of TRPV1 receptor by capsaicin [J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2007 Apr;53(2):124-32.] may also have contributed toward the increase in total volume performed."

"Given that greater resistance training volumes are highly associated with muscular hypertrophy, therefore it is possible that chronic pre-training capsaicin supplementation could lead to greater strength and hypertrophic adaptations," the researchers concluded.

"However, future research is required to test this hypothesis."

This final sentence is relevant. There are indications that continuous use of capsaicin reduces its ergogenic effects, probably because the muscle cells become used to the higher calcium concentration. "Opheim and Rankin [J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Feb;26(2):319-26.] reported that capsaicin supplementation (25.8mg/d) for seven days did not enhance repeat sprint performance in experienced athletes," the Brazilians wrote.

"The supplement administration protocol (acute vs. chronic) may be partially responsible for the discrepancies in the results. In the present study capsaicin was administered acutely whereas in Opheim and Rankin it was administered chronically. It is possible that chronic capsaicin ingestion may result in a desensitization effect that blunts the performance benefits."

J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Jul 3. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002109. [Epub ahead of print].

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