To succeed in sprinting, you need to put in hours of work both on the track and in the gym, working on technique, strength and speed. In a race, the result can come down to just hundredths of a second, meaning that any advantage you can get over your competition could help you to win. Taken at the right time, supplements may be able to give you that tiny edge that you need to help you succeed.
Depending on whether you run the 100, 200 or 400 meter sprint, your race may last anywhere between 10 and 60 seconds. The main energy systems your body uses to fuel short, intense exercise are the ATP system, and the phosphocreatine system, which last for up to around a minute. Your body uses its stored creatine to regenerate more ATP -- the fuel which it needs to work. However, our bodies only contain a small amount of stored creatine, so supplementing with extra can help to regenerate more ATP and provide more energy for longer.
Beta alanine's main role is to help buffer hydrogen ions. When hydrogen ions are produced, your muscles start to feel like they're burning, and they fatigue more quickly. By removing these hydrogen ions, the burning sensation is reduced, and ATP is also regenerated more quickly, meaning that you can work at a higher intensity for longer. When you first take beta-alanine you may feel a slight tingling sensation throughout your body, which is perfectly normal.
Caffeine is a stimulant which can heighten your nervous system, and boost your mental focus. The effects of caffeine however can vary greatly from person to person. If you are fairly relaxed before a race, then caffeine is great for helping to increase your levels of arousal, and getting you fired up. If you are nervous however, then caffeine may increase your nerves, and cause a drop in performance, so it's vital that you know how you react to it before a race. According to nutritionist Dr John Berardi, caffeine may be even more effective when combined with creatine.
Before taking any supplements, consult your doctor to make sure that they won't have any adverse effects on you, and also confirm that they are not banned by your athletics federation. It is also a good idea to try your pre-race combo out a few weeks before your main event, to ensure that you get the optimal dosage, and that they do not negatively impact your performance for any reason.