Many supplements actually deliver on the claims that are made. If a supplement proves to be effective (and safe), then it is important to determine if it will benefit you as a wrestler. First of all, you need to think about the physiological needs of wrestling.
During the match you need to be strong and you need to perform in spite of high levels of lactic acid build-up. You also need to be able to control your weight. Although there are several supplements that can provide various benefits, I will focus on the four supplements that might provide a benefit to you as a wrestler and those which appear to have a low potential for injury.
Creatine can be found naturally in your body—it’s synthesized primarily in the liver. You can consume creatine by eating red meats and fish. It is an important part of the ATP-PC system, because it can help rebuild ATP when you are working hard. Greater intramuscular amounts of creatine (the PC part of the reaction) can help delay fatigue during high-intensity activities like sprinting, wrestling or lifting weights. You can go at maximum intensity for longer. This might mean adding one more muscle-building repetition to a set in the weight room or pummeling a little harder for a takedown on the wrestling mat. There have been many research studies that have show that creatine is eff ective for improving strength performance.
Many supplement manufacturers produce creatine and the usual recommendation is to take about two grams per day. Some recommendations call for a loading does of 20 grams per day for five days, followed by two grams a day thereafter. These recommendations don’t account for diff erences in body size between people, so I prefer dosages that are adjusted for body weight. In this case if you wanted a loading dose you would multiply your body weight in pounds by .136 and if you were using a maintenance dose you would take 1/10 of the loading dose.
One of the limiting factors as to how hard you can push yourself when you are wrestling is the build-up of lactic acid. The hydrogen ion in lactic acid disrupts the processes that make muscle contraction possible. Carnosine, which is found in your muscles, actually helps to buffer the lactic acid and allows you to work harder. Two amino acids, beta-alanine and histidine, help your muscles make carnosine. Studies have shown that supplementing with beta-alanine improved subjects’ work capacity at intensities similar to what you need for wrestling.
Beta-alanine is not the only substance that can buff er the hydrogen in lactic acid. Plain old baking soda (called sodium bicarbonate) will also do it. Unfortunately, the amount of baking soda you need to eat is enough to cause most people to have severe stomach cramps and diarrhea…probably not what you want in the middle of a dual meet!
Typical recommendations for beta-alanine range from 1.6-6.4 grams per day. Usually these doses are about 0.8 grams taken every three hours. The reason for breaking up the doses is because bolus doses (taking a bunch all at once) of 3.2 grams caused most people to have irritating, allergy-like symptoms. This was due to the release of histidine during the reactions that create carnosine. Although the symptoms aren’t toxic, they are uncomfortable. Subjects taking smaller doses separated by three hours didn’t have the irritating responses. Although research supports performance improvements when subjects have used beta-alanine, it may not be worth the irritation that you might experience.
Taking creatine with a high-glycemic index carbohydrate increases the ability of creatine to enter the muscles cells where it is needed. Using a loading dosage for five days can fill your muscle cells with creatine faster than using a maintenance dose, but after about 4 weeks the levels will be the same whether you load or not. I don’t recommend using a loading dose during the season. One of the side eff ects of creatine usage at both dosage levels is weight gain, some of which is due to water retention. If you are trying to maintain or cut some weight this added water will not make things any easier.
There have been many reports of negative side eff ects associated with the use of creatine such as muscle cramps, stomach and intestinal problems, and others. However, research has not yet shown that creatine is likely to cause these problems when taken in recommended dosages. You should realize, however, that we still don’t know what taking creatine every day for several years could do to you. Therefore, you should factor that into your decision as to whether or not to use it.
Caffeine is probably the most commonly used stimulant in the world. People love caffeine, and for good reason. There are numerous quality research studies to show that caffeine is associated with short-term improvements in many types of performance.
Endurance athletes appear to benefit the most from caffeine use, but there are a few studies that suggest it might help trained power athletes. Probably the best benefit to you would be to help increase your arousal before a workout or competition. You probably notice that your performance is better on the days you feel more alert and ready to rumble.
The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or a can of caffeinated pop may be enough to help some people, but people who habitually consume the stuff may need more to feel the effect. Although there are several caffeine-containing energy drinks on the market, the performance benefi ts are best when a person takes caffeine in a tablet form. Research has shown that caffeine improves performance when a person consumes about 3-9 milligrams per kilogram of their body weight, which is about 1.4-4 milligrams per pound. Both the International Olympic Committee and the NCAA have established limits to the amount of caffeine athletes can legally have in their system. The IOC has set the limit at 12 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of urine in a sample and the NCAA allows up 15 micrograms. These limits are pretty generous—a 170-pound athlete would have to drink about 5 or 6 regular cups of coffee to reach the IOC’s
How about good old protein? Don’t forget that the amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle. If you are not getting adequate protein in your diet, then I recommend supplementation. In fact, of the supplements I’ve written about, protein is the most important. When you are trying to gain weight or if you are restricting calories you need greater amounts of protein than when you are not training. You can increase your protein intake by eating a few extra servings of foods rich in high-quality proteins that supply the essential amino acids.
The time of day that you consume protein is important as well. When you consume protein before right before a workout, you get a much better anabolic response and greater delivery of the amino acids to the muscle cells than when you eat protein right after a workout. However, eating some kind of protein immediately after the workout has better muscle building responses than if you wait an hour. In both cases, you can see that a protein supplement would be beneficial, because it would be rather difficult to consume whole foods at these times. Liquid nutrition, such as a protein shake, would probably be better.
Most of the research suggests that a range of 5-15 grams of essential amino acids provides the benefits. Whey protein tends to be faster at getting the amino acids to the muscles than casein, so that would be a better choice before and after your workouts. If you add some carbohydrate, such as table sugar, it will increase the benefit. Use a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein.