Have You Considered Glucosamine?

Posted 5th January 2014 by Rob Hobson, Healthspan's Head of Nutrition

Caffeine is a popular work-enhancing supplement that has been widely researched in the sport and exercise environment. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist, meaning it blocks the action of adenosine in the central nervous system (CNS). Adenosine has the impact of increasing pain perception and inducing sedation and relaxation which are generally counter-productive to exercise performance. Through its adenosine antagonist action, caffeine has been shown to support exercise performance via reduced perception of effort, fatigue or pain associated with exercise. Exercise research is highly supportive of caffeine’s ergogenic effect on endurance exercise and high-intensity intermittent activity (e.g. football, rugby) but support for maximal force and 1RM remains equivocal and individual dependent. The ubiquitous nature of caffeine makes it an easy and affordable ergogenic aid for a wide variety of athletes and exercisers.

One of the key areas of interest to athletes is perhaps caffeine’s effect on cognitive function. Research indicates improvements in a range of cognitive tests including memory tests, psychomotor tasks (e.g. decision making and reaction tasks) and attention tasks following strenuous exercise. If cognitive function in these areas can be maintained under fatigue this is of clear relevance to the athlete where critical decision making is important for success late in an event or game. Further to cognitive function, skill execution under fatigue may also be maintained with use of caffeine.

Another benefit of caffeine is a reduction in perception of effort during exercise. This reduction may allow athletes to work at a greater intensity or prolong the duration of exercise, which may be especially important in endurance exercise.

Ergogenic effects have been demonstrated from a wide range of dosages (~3-9mg/kg body mass) and across different forms (e.g. anhydrous powder, coffee, energy drinks, gels, gum…). This provides the user considerable flexibility with their protocol. However, it should be noted that there is significant individual variability in caffeine metabolism and this should be acknowledged when trialling caffeine use to ensure the optimal protocol can be established. Over consumption of caffeine may not only negate the ergogenic effect but also cause gastrointestinal upset, nervousness, mental confusion and an inability to focus.

At Scottish Rugby, we regularly use caffeine to support and enhance both training and match performances. Caffeine in different formats is made available prior to key training sessions (typically afternoon rugby sessions) and before matches. The nutrition team works with the players to identify their optimal caffeine strategy. Intakes <3mg/kg are generally recommended but this is individualised as best as possible with consideration of the players habitual caffeine intake (e.g. through coffee and tea) and performance feedback. Caffeine tablets/capsules are often the preferred format as they allow for fast absorption without unwanted tastes or the requirement of gastric load that accompanies energy drinks and caffeine gels.

References: 

  1. Buckwater JA and Martin JA (2004).  Sports and osteoarthritis. Current Opinion in Rhuematol. Sep; 16 (5): 634-9
  2. McAlindon TE, LaValley MP, Gulin JP, Felson DT. Glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis: a systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2000;283:1469–1475.
  3. Towheed TE, Maxwell L, Anastassiades TP, Shea B, Houpt J, Robinson V, Hochberg MC, Wells G. Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005
  4. Pavelka K, Gatterova J, Olejarova M, Machacek S, Giacovelli G, Rovati LC. Glucosamine sulfate use and delay of progression of knee osteoarthritis: a 3-year, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Arch Intern Med. 2002
  5. Sawitzke AD, Shi H, Finco MF, Dunlop DD, Bingham CO 3rd, Harris CL, Singer NG, Bradley JD, Silver D, Jackson CG, Lane NE, Oddis CV, Wolfe F, Lisse J, Furst DE, Reda DJ, Moskowitz RW, Willaims HJ, Clegg DO (2008).The effect of glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate progression of knee osteoarthritis: a report from the glucosamine/chondroitin arthritis intervention trial. Arthritis Rheumatism Journal; 58 (10):3183-3191
  6. Lee Y, Woo J-H, Choi S, Ji J, Song G. Effect of glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate on the osteoarthritis progression: a meta-analysis. Rheumatol Int. 2010;30:357–363. doi: 10.1007/s00296-009-0969-5.
  7. Reginster JY, Deroisy R, Rovati LC, Lee RL, Lejeune E, Bruyere O, Giacovelli G, Henrotin Y, Dacre JE, Gossett C (2001). Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis progression: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lancet ;357:251–256
  8. Pavelka K, Gatterova J, Olejarova M, Machacek S, Giacovelli G, Rovati LC (2002). Glucosamine sulfate use and delay of progression of knee osteoarthritis: a 3-year, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Arch Intern Med ;162:2113–2123
  9. Bruyere O, Pavelka K, Rovati LC, Gatterova J, Giacovelli G, Olejarova M, Deroisy R, Reginster JY. Total joint replacement after glucosamine sulphate treatment in knee osteoarthritis: results of a mean 8-year observation of patients from two previous 3-year, randomised, placebo-controlled trials. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008;16:254–260.

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