Adenosine triphosphate (let’s just call it ATP) is a naturally occurring substance stored in the body’s cells and released/broken down when needed to give your muscles energy. Sprinters use heaps of it to travel 100 meters down the track in ridiculously fast times, but marathoners also use it but at a much slower rate. We can produce it in the go, as long as there is enough energy in the body to replenish the stores allowing us to use it to run the many kilometers that we do.
Apart from energy production, some of the main functions of ATP include heart function, blood flow, glycogen metabolism in the liver, and muscle contraction. All things that are so imperative as runners or athletes of any kind. The French have even been using it in recovery from lower back pain. If you increase the blood flow around an injury site, the potential for recovery is so much greater.
But the real reason I am talking about this stuff here, is not to give you an understanding of the body’s energy system as that is boring and very long winded. The exciting thing I am sharing with you here is that scientists from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Missouri have started testing oral forms of ATP on rats with surprising results.
The rats were tested for femoral blood flow 60 minutes before, during and after exercise and were split into groups depending on the quantity of ATP used. Equivalent human dose would have been close to 100mg, 400mg, 1,000mg and 1600mg. The rats given the 1,000 and 1,600mg doses showed the best results with increased recovery blood flow during and after the exercise with significant dilation of arteries.
ATP has been used in human trials also in relation to human trials. Subjects were given a 12 week course of oral ATP at a dose of 400mg. The study showed a significant increase in lean body mass, muscle thickness, total strength and vertical jump power. It also reduced protein breakdown and strength loss in an overreaching training cycle.
For us as runners, this could mean many things. Imagine having more power to push up those hilly trails, longer lasting energy, the strength to push through that last kilometer or two when your legs would normally be feeling like jelly or just being able to knock 10 seconds or so off each kilometer. Over an ultra, that could be a massive difference.
These are exciting times in sports science and would love to see the effects of longer term supplementation of ATP, both positive and any potential negative effects. I just wonder if the fun police would consider this cheating and ban it from competition. Only time will tell.