"Get Fit to Dance!" by Bija Satterlee > How to Pump Up your MOJO for Competition

10 Aug 2005


ENERGY! We all need it, especially for dancing!

It’s TOUGH out there on the competition floor. And you want an edge over everyone else. What are you doing about it? Can we assume you have an impeccable work ethic, eat well, practice tirelessly, compete regularly, cross-train at the gym, and get great coaching? Then WHAT ELSE can you do to improve your performance and your results?

In an effort to get ahead, many athletes (dancesport included) use drugs and supplements to enhance their performance. In an NCAA survey, a surprising 58% of athletes admitted to use of dietary supplements or drugs. Most athletes admit that they got information from their peers and the media. Few consulted their physician about this topic. Since there are benefits to SOME and risks to many, it’s good to get educated about it.

ERGOGENIC SUBSTANCES are used to enhance strength and energy to improve performance in athletics. Athletes who use these supplements believe that they will get quick results, and they often ignore warnings about possible side effects.

With better dope testing methods and hence the possibility of detection, and life ban from sports, athletes and coaches are looking for legal ways to improve performance and/or hasten recovery.

Ergogenic Aids may:
* directly influence the physiological capacity of a particular body system thereby improving performance
* remove psychological constraints which impact performance
* increase the speed of recovery from training and competition

Ergogenic aids fall into the following categories:
* Mechanical Aids
• • Altitude Training
• Heart Rate Monitors
• Computers - analyze VO2 max, technique, test results etc
• Video taping – for analyzing technique
• Weights - develop strength
• Hypoxic Tents
• Nasal Strips
• Treadmills or other cardio training
• Weighted vests, to develop strength
• Sports clothing, footwear and equipment

* Pharmacological Aids
• Supplements
• Ginseng, herbs

* Physiological Aids
• Creatine
• Colostrum
• Sports Massage
• Physiotherapy
• Herbal Medicines
• Acupuncture
• Sauna, whirlpool

* Nutritional Aids
• Carbohydrate Loading
• Caffeine
• Creatine
• Bicarbonate of Soda
• Sports Drinks

* Psychological Aids
• Cheering
• Hypnosis
• Psychology
• Music
• Relaxation
• Imagery, visualizing

Banned Ergogenic Aids include:
* Physiological
• Blood Doping

* Pharmaceutical
• Amphetamine
• Beta Blocker
• Human Growth Hormone
• Anabolic Steroid
• Masking agents

Anabolic Steroids
In spite of numerous reports on the health risks of anabolic steroid use, 1 to 3 million Americans have used them. An athlete using steroids builds strength and muscle mass, but serious side effects included unhealthy cholesterol profiles, heart attack, stroke, liver tumors, and prostate problems. Large doses of anabolic steroids tend to make men irritable and moody at best, and at worst, raging, murderous, and suicidal. Competition can make us do crazy things… hopefully all the young competitive dancesport kids will avoid the temptation, despite its availability and the promise of a competitive edge.

Human growth hormone has been tried by many athletes, although no scientific study has shown that it is an effective performance-enhancing drug. Amphetamines and similar compounds may be the most widely abused drug in baseball; recently, they have come under increased scrutiny in sport. Erythropoietin is a highly effective aerobic enhancer that has been linked to multiple deaths in cyclists and other endurance athletes.

Androstenedione – a precursor of testosterone. It is marketed as a “legal anabolic steroid” but has little intrinsic activity by itself. Once it is metabolized to testosterone, however, it will act like naturally occurring testosterone. Side effects include increased acne, decreased sperm production and aggression to mention a few. This is banned by some sport regulatory agencies.

Ephedra – acts as a stimulant, a decongestant, and can suppress your appetite. Athletes like the weight loss and “increased alertness and feeling of energy”. Ephedrine studies showed no significant positive ergonomic effect. Adverse effects include palpitations, headaches, agitation, nausea, chest pain, and muscle aches. There have been case reports on ephedra that resulted in seizures and death. If you know anyone still using ephedra, do them a favor and tell them to stop, and to get fully educated on it ASAP.

Creatine – can increase phosphocreatine levels. Short periods of intense activity such as stationary cycling sprints and weight lifting (basically bursts of activity for three seconds or less) have been shown to help but this has not been translated to other activities. Side effects include weight gain and possible renal failure. There are no long-term studies on creatine, but many athletes take it. It is legal and not banned by any sport regulatory body.

Caffeine – Now here is a legal drug we can talk about, which can be ergogenic for both elite and recreational athletes! Modest doses of caffeine (3 to 6 mg/kg) ingested 1 hour before exercise can enhance endurance. In one study of trained athletes, a high caffeine dose (9 mg/kg) before racing increased endurance running time and cycling time an astonishing 44% and 51%, respectively.

Caffeine is thought to have an effect on the brain (decreasing perceived exertion or increasing motor-unit recruitment) which results in higher performance. It would NOT be a good idea to experiment with caffeine at an important competition ~ especially if you are not a regular coffee drinker! It’s been my experience that many dancers need to CALM DOWN to perform better, not get an adrenaline jolt from caffeine.

Caffeine has its drawbacks – what goes UP must come DOWN, and you experience an energy roller-coaster with it. It is wise to maintain steady blood-sugar and insulin levels, and caffeine can disrupt this. Caffeine highs bring adrenaline lows, and sometimes headaches too. It’s like borrowing money from the bank, somehow you have to pay it back.

Also, caffeine is a dieuretic, and the last thing you want to do is get dehydrated on competition day. Weigh the benefits with this. If you do drink coffee or tea, understand its dieuretic effect. You need to drink even MORE water to make up for the fluid loss on your many trips to the bathroom.

Thankfully it’s free and abundant in the ballroom! Keep your cup or water bottle flowing… you don’t notice time slipping by during the day, but you are always losing water, and muscle and brain-power depend on you being well-hydrated. This is one of the most important things you can do during competitions.

Sports drinks don't hydrate better than water, but they’re a good idea, especially if you are dancing for more than an hour. Because sports drinks taste good, you are more likely to drink larger volumes, which leads to better hydration. You can get a carbohydrate boost from sports drinks, in addition to electrolytes which may be lost from perspiration, and these drinks tend to be lower in calories than juice or soft drinks.

GOO is a funny little item you might find hidden in some people’s dance bags around the ballroom. With names like PowerGel, Carb-BOOM, GU, HammerGel and Clif Shot, they offer the same important carbohydrates available in run-of-the-mill foods like bananas and figs. Goo, however, come in fancy foil packaging.

There's nothing magic about Goo. It just offers carbohydrate energy in a hurry. And they're convenient, prewrapped, and portable. Some even come with a few milligrams of caffeine!! You can purchase these little foil-packed gems at your local running or bike store. Just ask for Goo… and try not to laugh. Get several packets in different flavors / caffeine or no caffeine, etc., so you can try them out BEFORE competition day. You don’t want to try anything NEW at a competition!

There is no replacement for good sound training. A great training schedule and daily routine leading up to a competition is most important. Good food, adequate rest, and a positive mental outlook are your best bet for competition preparation, and for building your MOJO for all time, not just the BIG DAY. Special foods, supplements, Goo, ginseng, caffeine etc. should all be well researched and tested well before important competitions.

Unfortunately, there ARE people out there using illegal or dangerous substances to get ahead. Aside from the ethical and legal questions, it poses a dilemma to those who just want a fair playing field. You have to decide whether to compete “natural” or to join the diabolical race to victory ‘at all costs’ to your health.

Do your homework and make your own decisions about these ergogenic aids. Some are extremely dangerous and hazardous to your health. Some have little or no side effects, and can be used safely. I have seen more than one successful Italian dancer sipping espresso in the coffee shop an hour before competition. With a twinkle in the eye, the champion downs his special secret. At least the drugs served up by Starbucks are legal!

In Joy and Exceptionally Good Health,
Bija Satterlee

Bija Satterlee