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The term explosive action in sport science and athletics is a real, highly sought-after result of training that could mean serious competitive gains for athletes.
In team sports, such as basketball or soccer, explosive action might refer to a variety of movements that include jumping, kicking, change of direction, acceleration, and even deceleration. These are often studied as either single or repeated actions, and measurements might involve a combination of power, speed, and endurance.
Coaches and trainers often turn to plyometric training for its well-established benefits to explosive speed, power, and endurance. Seeking the right adaptations for their athletes, training might include a series of plyometric exercises – such as squat, peak, and countermovement jumps, short sprints, and shuttle runs – designed to mimic specific movements seen on the court or pitch.
Apart from plyometric training, dietary approaches are widely used by athletes to seek out adaptations that translate to explosiveness. While the research remains limited, some studies have offered promising findings, particularly when plyometric or sprint-type exercises are combined with targeted nutrition and supplementation regimens.
Buffering Up With Beta-Alanine
The demonstrated ergogenic effects of beta-alanine – an amino acid found mainly in chicken and beef – have made it a supplement worth studying.
Beta-alanine is thought to work by increasing the concentration of carnosine in both fast-twitch and short-twitch muscle fibers. A greater amount of carnosine in muscles could mean more of a buffer against acidity that can lead to fatigue.
In a recent randomized placebo-controlled study on 25 club-level female soccer players, plyometric training combined with beta-alanine supplementation led to a greater adaptive response for endurance and in repeated sprinting and jumping performances (1).
The researchers explained that beta-alanine’s benefits might be explained due its effects on “increasing buffering ability of muscles” that “may have increased fatigue resistance during sets of jump training, allowing greater intensity during the latter part of plyometric training sessions” (1).
Creatine Increases Muscle-Carb Carrying Capacity
Creatine’s often touted for acting itself as quick energy for explosive movements related to strength training for athletes. Less well-known is that creatine can also improve athletic performance through increasing muscle carbohydrate storage capacity.
Repeated fast, explosive movements that translate to speed and power in sports are highly reliant on carbohydrate stores in muscle or muscle glycogen. For this reason, nutritional strategies like carbohydrate or glycogen loading are employed. Creatine is thought to improve the efficiency of glycogen loading by attracting water into muscles, allowing for greater carbohydrate storage. A study in cyclists taking creatine (20 grams for five days plus 3 grams for nine days) demonstrated that the supplement increased stored glycogen in muscles by more than half and led to greater power during sprints and less time to fatigue (2).
Likewise, a study on female soccer players showed that creatine supplementation led to enhanced adaption in response to six weeks of plyometric training. Greater improvements in jump and repeated sprint performance as compared to those taking placebo were seen (3).
Caffeine on Countermovement Jumps
Caffeine is the most widely used ergogenic substance used by athletes, usually in the form of coffee or energy drinks. Its stimulant properties are owed to the interactions with adenosine receptors in the brain leading to greater alertness and energy levels (4).
When combined with plyometric training, caffeine also can lead to greater explosive action. For example, one study found that ingestion of 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight improved countermovement jump performance in elite male volleyball players (5).
Another study evaluated a caffeine-containing energy drink on both countermovement jump performance and team performance of female soccer players during a double-blind, placebo controlled trial (6). The energy drink, which provided a dose of caffeine equivalent to 3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, led to increases in countermovement jump height, total running distance, and number of sprint bouts during a simulated game (6).
AMPED Nitro: Combining Beta-Alanine, Creatine, and Caffeine
AMPED™ Nitro contains the three ingredients in a convenient drink powder. The pre-workout drink also contains additional ingredients such as Nitrosigine® to support optimal plasma levels of arginine, which is a precursor for nitric oxide production and increases blood flow to the brain and muscles (7).
Based on the sports science literature, athletes could maximize adaptation from plyometric training with AMPED Nitro as a nutritional strategy that combines beta-alanine, creatine, and caffeine in safe and effective dosages.
Nitrosigine is a registered trademark of Nutrition 21, LLC and is patent protected.
- Rosas F, Ramírez-Campillo R, Martínez C, Caniuqueo A, Cañas-Jamet R, McCrudden E, Meylan C, Moran J, Nakamura FY, Pereira LA, et al. Effects of Plyometric Training and Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Maximal-Intensity Exercise and Endurance in Female Soccer Players. J Hum Kinet. 2017;58:99–109.
- Tomcik KA, Camera DM, Bone JL, Ross ML, Jeacocke NA, Tachtsis B, Senden J, van Loon LJC, Hawley JA, Burke LM. Effects of Creatine and Carbohydrate Loading on Cycling Time Trial Performance [Internet]. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2017. 1 p. Available from: http://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00005768-900000000-97135
- Ramírez-Campillo R, González-Jurado JA, Martínez C, Nakamura FY, Peñailillo L, Meylan CMP, Caniuqueo A, Cañas-Jamet R, Moran J, Alonso-Martínez AM, et al. Effects of plyometric training and creatine supplementation on maximal-intensity exercise and endurance in female soccer players. J Sci Med Sport. 2016;19:682–7.
- Burke LM, Desbrow B, Spriet LL. Caffeine for Sports Performance. Human Kinetics – HK. 2014. 216 p.
- Zbinden-Foncea H, Rada I, Gomez J, Kokaly M, Stellingwerff T, Deldicque L, Peñailillo L. Effects of caffeine on countermovement-jump performance variables in elite male volleyball players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018;13:145–50.
- Lara B, Gonzalez-Millan C, Salinero JJ, Abian-Vicen J, Areces F, Barbero-Alvarez JC, Muñoz V, Portillo LJ, Gonzalez-Rave JM, Del Coso J. Caffeine-containing energy drink improves physical performance in female soccer players. Amino Acids. 2014;46:1385–92.
- Kalman D, Harvey PD, Ojalvo SP, Komorowski J. Randomized prospective double-blind studies to evaluate the cognitive effects of inositol-stabilized arginine silicate in healthy physically active adults. Nutrients. 2016;8.
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Cardio or Strength Training: The Best Exercise For Weight Loss
Everyone knows exercise is good for you – for everything from reducing the risk of chronic disease to improving our quality of life (1). But, which is best?
Like diet fads, new workout fads come and go. It’s hard to keep up and decipher which type of exercise is most beneficial, especially when it comes to weight loss. Is it cardio, strength training, or high-intensity exercise?
Exercise researchers have tackled this question time and time again. Their results: It’s complicated.
Cardio Versus Strength Training
A study out of Duke University compared aerobic exercise, resistance exercise, and a combination of the two in a group of overweight or obese adults (2). For weight loss alone, the study found that the best results in terms of pounds lost comes from aerobic exercise.
However, the weight loss from the participants doing aerobic exercise also included the loss of lean muscle. In contrast, the resistance exercise group gained weight due to an increase in muscle mass, while the combination group lost slightly less weight compared to the aerobic group.
The combination group also experienced the greatest reduction in waist circumference. The result suggests that there’s potential for a greater loss of inches with a smaller overall weight loss resulting in better body composition.
For those who solely desire weight loss, more cardio could be the answer. However, research has shown that for those who want to improve overall body composition, the best exercise is going to be a combination of both cardio and strength/resistance training.
High-Intensity Interval Training
A good way to combine cardio with strength training in a short amount of time is high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Studies have consistently shown that HIIT leads to greater fat loss, specifically abdominal fat loss (3). HIIT typically involves alternating intense bouts of exercise, ranging from 30 seconds to several minutes, with recovery periods spanning one to five minutes. HIIT can incorporate cardio moves, body-weight exercises, and weightlifting, making it a form of exercise that works for people with a wide variety of fitness goals.
Notable for its incorporation of the nutritional timing of protein, HIIT, stretching, and endurance and resistance training, the PRISE protocol allows participants to benefit from each type of exercise.
With the PRISE protocol, each exercise is performed one day per week. Studies that have evaluated effectiveness of PRISE have found that its integration of nutrition and training leads to significant reductions in body fat (4-6). Additionally, the protocol leads to greater gains in muscle mass and improved cardiovascular health (4-6).
There are two caveats worth noting when it comes to your weight loss efforts and exercise, as noted in the research (7):
- The most important factor for weight loss is improving your eating habits.
- The best exercise to participate in is generally going to be the one that’s most enjoyable since you will be more likely to commit to it.
Yes, physical activity can make a stark difference in your weight loss efforts, but exercise alone rarely makes the biggest difference. The most important thing to keep in mind is that successful long-term weight loss is nearly always reached by a healthy balance of both exercise and nutrition.
- Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), 801–809. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351
- L. H. Willis, C. A. Slentz, L. A. Bateman, A. T. Shields, L. W. Piner, C. W. Bales, J. A. Houmard, W. E. Kraus. Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2012; 113 (12): 1831 DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011
- Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. J Obes. 2011; 2011:868305. doi: 10.1155/2011/868305. Epub 2010 Nov 24.
- Arciero PJ, Ives SJ, Norton C, Escudero D, Minicucci O, O’Brien G, Paul M, Ormsbee MJ, Miller V, Sheridan C & He F. Protein-Pacing and Multi-Component Exercise Training Improves Physical Performance Outcomes in Exercise-Trained Women: The PRISE 3 Study. Nutrients. 2016 Jun 1; 8(6).
- Ives SJ, Norton C, Miller V, Minicucci O, Robinson J, O’Brien G, Escudero D, Paul M, Sheridan C, Curran K, Rose K, Robinson N, He F & Arciero PJ. Multi-modal exercise training and protein-pacing enhances physical performance adaptations independent of growth hormone and BDNF but may be dependent on IGF-1 in exercise-trained men. Growth Horm IGF Res. 2016 Oct 15. pii: S1096-6374(16)30060-0.
- Arciero PJ, Miller VJ & Ward E. Performance Enhancing Diets and the PRISE Protocol to Optimize Athletic Performance. J Nutr Metab. 2015; 2015:715859.
- Johns, D. J., Hartmann-Boyce, J., Jebb, S. A., & Aveyard, P. (2014). Diet or Exercise Interventions vs Combined Behavioral Weight Management Programs: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Direct Comparisons. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(10), 1557–1568. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2014.07.005
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When people think about exercising for health, the first thing that comes to mind is typically cardio exercises and lifting heavy weights at the gym.
However, as research is emerging on the benefits of strength training, new findings suggest that the advantages that come with strength training can happen outside a gym, using body weight exercises, for example.
Reductions in blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood glucose are all benefits of regular strength training (1). There’s evidence that the improvements seen are at least as significant as aerobic exercise. Yet, while the recommendations are to engage in at least two strength training episodes per week, researchers estimate only 9 percent of adults meet the recommendations (2).
In a recent study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers followed up with more than 80 thousand adults, recruited over 30 years (3). The average length of follow-up was nine years. Researchers were interested in strength training exercise and how often, if at all, individuals participated in strength or resistance training exercises. They then calculated the risk of death according to how much and how often they exercised.
As it turns out, it doesn’t matter if strength training exercises are completed in a gym or in another setting so long as strength and resistance exercises were completed through the week. Adults who worked out in a gym averaged 60 minutes per week, while those working at home using body weight exercises averaged 50 minutes per week. Those who usually completed their training sessions in a gym reported using free weights or weight machines while those who worked out in other locations, their home or a park for example, primarily used body weight exercises. Not all participants met the guidelines for aerobic activity, but it turns out that had little effect on the overall results.
Participation in any form of strength training exercise was associated with a 31 percent lower risk of cancer mortality and a 23 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality – independent of whether the person met aerobic guidelines as well – versus adults who did not regularly participate in any form of strength training.
The results of this study are very encouraging for anyone who wants to work out at home or forego lifting the traditional weights and use the machines at the gym. Just incorporating an hour of strength training through the week is enough to promote health benefits.
A good way to incorporate an hour of resistance training each week is by using the PRISE protocol developed by Paul Arciero, Ph.D. Strength training is part of Dr. Arciero’s recommended program, as the “R” stands for resistance training. Sessions should be approximately an hour long and consist of a dynamic warmup, footwork and agility exercises, lower and upper body resistance exercises, and core exercises. Exercises should cause muscular fatigue in 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets. Participants should take a 30-second rest between sets and a 60-second rest between different exercises.
- Westcott WL. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Curr Sport Med Rep. 2012 Jul/Aug; 11(4): 209-216. doi: 1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8.
- Kraschnewski JL, Sciamanna CN, Poger JM, et al. Is strength training associated with mortality benefits? A 15 year cohort study of US older adults. Prev Med. 2016 Jun; 87: 121-127. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.02.038.
- Stamatakis E, Lee I, Bennie J, et al. Does strength promoting exercise confer unique health benefits? A pooled analysis of eleven population cohorts with all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality endpoints. Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Oct 31. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx345.