Q | Besides the ingredients that boost energy, does the other stuff in energy drinks really do anything?
A | In a word, yes. Aside from giving a welcome boost in energy, many such drinks contain specific ingredients that aid bodybuilders in other ways. For example, taurine, found in many energy drinks, has muscle-building and muscle-protective effects.
Taurine is a nonessential amino acid that is found in the body, primarily in muscle and nerve tissue. It is termed nonessential because the body produces enough naturally that exogenous sources aren't really needed, at least for normal physiological function.
However, taurine is found in many foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and fish. It serves multiple functions, including cell volumizing, speeding recovery between workouts and stabilizing the cells of electrically active tissues (including the brain and the heart).
There is growing support in the scientific community to classify certain "nonessential" amino acids somewhat differently based on their roles during increased activity (i.e., exercise or work). During heavy training or psychological stress, the body utilizes additional amounts of various nutrients, and supplementation may be necessary to ensure optimal performance.
It is known that exercise induces a significant dramatic decrease of taurine levels in predominantly fast-twitch muscle fibers. These decreases are of the same magnitude as those induced by the natural aging process. Supplementation with taurine replaces depleted intramuscular levels and improves exercise performance by increasing the skeletal muscle's force of contraction (strength).
Another key function of taurine is to help regulate cellular fluid balance. Creators of energy drinks use taurine to enhance the movement of water from the bloodstream into muscle cells (roughly 60% of fluid in the body is found inside cells). This leads to an increase in the amount of intracellular fluid and induces what is called the "cellular volumization effect." This effect is also observed with creatine supplementation. Optimizing the fluid levels inside muscle cells has been shown to boost the rate at which cellular protein is produced (i.e., it increases the rate at which muscle grows).
Furthermore, taurine reduces muscle damage caused by exercise by speeding recovery between workouts. It also reduces drowsiness, increases mental alertness, and improves reaction time and decision-making abilities.
As an energy and strength boost, take creatine along with taurine, whether in capsule form or from an energy drink. The caffeine added to energy drinks consumed prior to training will help your drive and intensity in the gym, as well.
--Tim Scheett, PHD
RELATED ARTICLE: MUSCLE MORSELS
Nuts are a wholesome nighttime snack. They contain protein, healthy fats and fiber, and they're low in carbs. They stay with you a long time, helping prevent muscle breakdown while you sleep.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group