Physical training and proper nutrition are paramount for success in sport. A key tissue is skeletal muscle, as the metabolic pathways that produce energy or ATP allow the muscles to complete the many activities critical to success in sport. The energy-producing pathways must rapidly respond to the need for ATP during sport and produce energy at a faster rate or for a longer duration through training and proper nutrition which should translate into improved performance in sport activities. There is also continual interest in the possibility that nutritional supplements could further improve muscle metabolism and the provision of energy during sport. Most legal sports supplements do not improve performance following oral ingestion. However, three legal supplements that have received significant attention over the years include creatine, carnitine and sodium bicarbonate. The ingestion of large amounts of creatine for 4–6 days increases skeletal muscle creatine and phosphocreatine contents. The majority of the experimental evidence suggests that creatine supplementation can improve short-term exercise performance, especially in sports that require repeated short-term sprints. It may also augment the accretion of skeletal muscle when taken in combination with a resistance-exercise training programme. Supplementary carnitine has been touted to increase the uptake and oxidation of fat in the mitochondria. However, muscle carnitine levels are not augmented following oral carnitine supplementation and the majority of well-controlled studies have reported no effect of carnitine on enhancing fat oxidation, o2max or prolonged endurance exercise performance. The ingestion of sodium bicarbonate before intense exercise decreases the blood [H+] to potentially assist the efflux of H+ from the muscle and temper the metabolic acidosis associated with intense exercise. Many studies have reported performance increases in laboratory-based cycling tests and simulated running races in the field following sodium bicarbonate ingestion where the need for ATP from substrate phosphorylation is high. However, other studies have reported no benefit and the incidence of negative side effects is high.

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