Capsaicin is a component that can be found in chill peppers and it is responsible for the sensation of burning when we consume peppers. Recently there was a study examining the effects it has on strength and endurance in athletes and results look promising.
The study was completed by 11 males that were actively training for at least 1 year 3-5 times per week. They were all between 20 and 30 years old. It was a cross-over design, meaning each participant was tested with the supplement and 7 days later with a placebo.
Participants took 12 mg of capsiate or placebo, and the testing protocol consisted of 5 km running test followed by 4 sets of squats to failure at 70% 1RM (12-15 repetitions per set). The rest time between squat sets was 2 minutes.
The 5 km run was a HIIT test designed as a series of one minute run at a 100% of maximal aerobic power, followed by 1 minute rest.
The capsaicin group had a significantly lower rate of perceived exertion (RPE) 6.1 (out of 10), compared to the placebo group which had 8.1. Mean heart rate was also significantly lower in capsaicin group (151) compared to the placebo group which had 158. When it comes to the total number of repetitions for squats, the capsaicin group had a higher number of total repetitions of 35 compared to the placebo group which had 30 repetitions.
While these results are quite clear in favour of capsaicin supplementation, it is important to mention that there were some other studies from before that failed to find any benefits of the same supplement. For example, study published by Opheim and Rankin found that ingesting 3g of cayenne pepper for seven days failed to result in any increases in performance. However in this study they used cayenne pepper which cause some of the gastrointestinal issues which could be the reason why participants failed to have any performance improvements.
Because of these contradicting results, it is too early to make any definite recommendations but what we can do is analyse and see how this compound can potentially increase our performance.
How does it work?
Capsaicin binds to a receptor called transient receptor potential vanilloid and when activated two things happen: pain perception and an increased release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum which directly increases muscle force production. These are the mechanisms through which this supplement can actually work. It reduces the perception of pain and effort and therefore boosts performance.
On top of this, there is some evidence that this supplement can aid in fat loss by increasing resting energy expenditure, however the overall effect is quite small, only 50-100 kcal per day so I would not consider it as a fat loss supplement.
How to take it?
Research showed that one to two 12mg doses of purified capsiate powder per day have an effect on performance. I do recommend to rely of food for this intake. Capsaicinoid can be found in chilli and red peppers it it generally accounts for 1% of the pepper weight, so its quite easy to consume enough of it in a day. I recommend being careful at the beginning to avoid potential stomach irritation by consuming too much spicy peppers. Instead, test your tolerance to it and increase the intake gradually and make it part of your regular meal plan.
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