Just to be clear if you cheat and/or break the rules then you should be DQ’d and I don’t support cheating in any way whatsoever.
I’ve personally seen people wear swim gloves; we’ve all seen people drafting; and probably we’ve all seen people cut corners when running. I’m sure someone will invent an aero rear-viewing mirror for cycling one day just to help beat the motorcycle draft busters!
That said; this post is rather about how to utilise ingestible supplements that work IMO.
Most of the ones below are common and cheap – ALL ARE GENERALLY SAFE (RESEARCH THE SIDE EFFECTS) AND LEGAL.
I would approach ALL vendors’ claims about supplementation with scepticism, especially those that have paid for university research to validate their product. The conflict of interest is obvious. This problem of conflicting interests is endemic in the HEALTH claims about the foods and medicines we consume.
Also just because something ‘WORKS’; it doesn’t necessarily mean it will really make you faster. Something could ‘work’ in the sense that it boosts your 5k time by 0.1 seconds. To me that hasn’t worked.
The ones below REALLY work.
There are many things, like EPO, that work (you haven’t got the resources to do that) and there are steroids that work (you must be MAD to put that stuff in your body). They are illegal.
You can do things like sleep in oxygen tents and sleep/train at various altitudes. Professional athletes do these things; they work. Is that cheating? (No). My understanding is that originally Lance Armstrong stored his blood and then re-used HIS blood. Is that cheating (Yes, but, IMO, that should be OK – not that I’d do it myself). Using someone else’s blood or artificial blood products I would say ARE cheating.
Anyway; the following can all work for normal athletes. My personal theory is that the better you are, the less some of these will work as, for example, to be an elite athlete there has to be something particularly ‘right’ with your genes to be elite; maybe that includes naturally having the effects that some of these products can deliver to mere mortals:
Sodium Bicarbonate – NaHCO3 supposedly buffers acids such as lactic acid. Although How it makes its way past a highly acidic stomach I don’t quite understand. Take 0.2-0.4g/kg of your body weight 1 hour before your race. A loading strategy is not required. Hint: You have this in your kitchen cupboard, it’s baking soda!
Sodium Tri Phosphate (Folland et al 2008) Tri-sodium Phosphate (Na3PO4) increases oxygen transport with increased 2,3-diphosphoglycerate. Buy Hammer Nutrition RACE DAY BOOST and follow the instructions on the tin.
Caffeine (Black et al 2015 and many others) – Is thought to work by antagonising the adenosine receptors (Kalmar, 2005). 6mg of caffeine PER KG of your body weight 1 hour before your race start this will cover you up to a standard distance race length (3 hours). A Longer race will require further caffeine supplementation during the race. Exceeding these doses make no positive difference. Abstinence before race-day consumption and/or loading up to your race makes no difference. Hint: Buy own-brand supermarket tablets
NO/Nitrates from Beetroot juice (Cosby et al 2003) – 1x shot/sachet 2 hours before your race should suffice. Some form of loading over the days leading up to a race may make a slight additional difference). Some form of additional supplementation might be required for HIM/IM but I’m not sure. Hint: Beet-Active is cheaper than Beet-It
Water – The level at which performance deteriorates because of the effects of dehydration (such as more viscous blood) is at approximately 2-3% decrease in bodyweight from race start. Work out how much you sweat per hour and consume accordingly. 1 litre per hour may be a good place to start for longer events (>=Olympic)
Glucose/fructose drinks (2:1 ratio as in High5 and other products) – I’ve bought into the High5 marketing that there are two energy pathways into the body from glucose and fructose. It takes about 30 minutes from drinking for the energy to start being used. So consume accordingly. 1-2 should be sufficient for an Olympic triathlon and 0-1 for a sprint triathlon. Hint: You know what glucose (normal sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) are; only consume the gels in races if you can.
Anthocyanins (in Blackcurrants, cherry and other fruits) – Curranz claims (Willems et al) increased endurance performance from raising LTHR. In my opinion that MAY occur but certainly recovery is very significantly improved with consumption. Great for intense training periods.
Whey protein isolate 2g/kg of body mass daily will preserve lean muscle mass
B-alanine – 3g per day is sufficient. Increases time to exhaustion. This has a relatively small but noticeable effect but rigorous science backs this up. Probably more suited to shorter distances.
Creatine – this works: 5g a day of a cheap monohydrate powder is sufficient to get the effect. This increases power and also increases creatine in the body which supports ATP synthesis (energy ‘creation’) during exercise. [I appreciate energy can’t be created, hopefully you understand what I mean, I try to write non-technically].