Bodybuilders and other strength athletes who take a supplement containing 15 mg capsaicin 45 minutes before their workout are able to get more reps out of their sets – and can thus train more intensively. Brazilian sports scientists at Sao Paulo State University discovered this.
The researchers got 10 trained men to do squats on two occasions. On both occasions the participants did 4 sets at 70 percent of the weight with which they could just manage 1 rep. Between sets they rested for one and a half minutes.
On one occasion the participants took 12 mg capsaicin 45 minutes before starting the workout; on the other occasion they took a placebo. “This timing was selected because capsaicin reaches peak concentrations 45 minutes following supplementation [J Med Assoc Thai. 2009 Jan;92(1):108-13.], the half-life of capsaicin is approximately 25 minutes, and full clearance from the plasma occurs approximately 105 min following supplementation [J Control Release. 2014 Dec 28;196:96-105.],” the Brazilians explained.
The participants completed more reps during their sets when they had taken capsaicin.
Supplementation with capsaicin increased the training volume. And despite this, the participants reported less fatigue rather than more when they used capsaicin.
The Brazilians put forward three theories that might explain the performance enhancing effect of capsaicin. One is that capsaicin inhibits pain stimuli.
15 mg capsaicin taken before workout makes more intensive strength training possible
“Topical capsaicin has been used as a pain reliever in neuropathic conditions and sufficient doses of capsaicin that activate the TRPV1 receptor have been shown to possess analgesic effects by inactivating or desensitizing primary affect nerve endings as a result of calcium overload,” they wrote.
According to another theory, capsaicin stimulates the contraction of muscle fibres. “The ergogenic effects of capsaicin on resistance exercise performance observed in the present study may have been through the modulation of the TRPV1 channel,” wrote the researchers. “The activation of this receptor in skeletal muscle increases calcium release by sarcoplasmic reticulum [PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58673.] leading to greater interaction of actin-myosin filaments and greater tension generation [Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014 May 15;306(10):E1110-9.].”
“In addition, an increase in CNS activity and epinephrine secretion via activation of TRPV1 receptor by capsaicin [J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2007 Apr;53(2):124-32.] may also have contributed toward the increase in total volume performed.”
“Given that greater resistance training volumes are highly associated with muscular hypertrophy, therefore it is possible that chronic pre-training capsaicin supplementation could lead to greater strength and hypertrophic adaptations,” the researchers concluded. “However, future research is required to test this hypothesis.”
This final sentence is relevant. There are indications that continuous use of capsaicin reduces its ergogenic effects, probably because the muscle cells become used to the higher calcium concentration. “Opheim and Rankin [J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Feb;26(2):319-26.] reported that capsaicin supplementation (25.8mg/d) for seven days did not enhance repeat sprint performance in experienced athletes,” the Brazilians wrote.
“The supplement administration protocol (acute vs. chronic) may be partially responsible for the discrepancies in the results. In the present study capsaicin was administered acutely whereas in Opheim and Rankin it was administered chronically. It is possible that chronic capsaicin ingestion may result in a desensitization effect that blunts the performance benefits.”
Acute capsaicin supplementation improves resistance training performance in trained men.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Publish Ahead of Print():, JUL 2017
Marcelo Conrado de Freitas; Jason M. Cholewa; and 9 more
1Exercise and Immunometabolism Research Group, Department of Physical Education, São Paulo State University (UNESP), Presidente Prudente, SP, Brazil
The purpose of this study was to investigate the acute effect of capsaicin supplementation on performance, rate of perceived exertion and blood lactate concentrations during resistance exercise in healthy trained young men. Ten resistance-trained men (age= 22.7±4.0 yrs, weight= 82.3±9.6 kg, height= 1.75±0.1 cm) completed two randomized, double-blind trials: Capsaicin condition (12mg) or a placebo condition. Forty five minutes after supplement consumption, subjects performed four sets until movement failure in the squat exercise at 70% of 1RM with 90 seconds of rest interval between sets. The total weight lifted (total repetitions x weight lifted) was calculated. The rate of perceived exertion (RPE) was recorded after the last set. Blood lactate was analyzed after each set of exercise, immediately post exercise, and after three, five and at 30 minutes during recovery. The number of repetitions in each set decreased significantly after all sets compared to set-1 and after set-3 and set-4 in relation to set-2 (p<0.001), however total weight lifted was higher in capsaicin compared to placebo (3919.4 + 1227.4 kg vs 3179.6 + 942.4 kg, p=0.002). Blood lactate increased significantly following each set (p<0.001); however, there were no differences between conditions. RPE was significantly less for the capsaicin condition than placebo (17.2 + 1.0 vs 18.3 + 1.7, p=0.048). In summary, acute capsaicin supplementation improves lower body resistance training performance in trained young men.