[This article originally appeared in the
issue of Runner's World
Q.I heard that taking
Tums before a race can improve my performance. Is this true? --A.E.,
A.Your question is based on the theory that
lactic acid causes fatigue and
that counteracting the lactic acid should therefore delay fatigue and
enhance performance. Many (though not all) exercise scientists accept this
theory as valid for events lasting from two minutes to an hour or more.
Supporting evidence comes in part from numerous studies (Matson
& Tran, International Journal of Sport Nutrition 3: 2-28, 1993; McNaughton et al., European Journal of
Applied Physiology 80: 64-9, 1999) in which runners or
cyclists have improved their times by ingesting buffers (substances that
prevent the blood from becoming too acidic). Before you raid the shelves
of your local pharmacy, though, you should consider the following caveats.
Clearly, the pre-race buffer breakfast is not for everyone. If you do want
to try it, my recommendations would be to (1) use sodium bicarbonate
rather than some other less proven buffer,
(2) ingest the buffer slowly over a period of an hour or so, finishing at
least one hour before your run (Linderman
& Fahey, Sports Medicine 11: 71-7, 19991), and
(3) seek help from a health
care professional in finding a dosage that is both safe and effective.