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Monday 10 March 2014

Could chilli add some kick to your performance?

Sports scientists at Southampton Solent University are seeking volunteers who regularly play football to take part in a study to test whether spicy foods containing chilli such as curry eaten prior to an exercise session can enhance sporting performance.

The hypothesis they will be testing is that capsaicin (a derivative of chilli peppers) could improve running performance through a potential stimulant effect (similar to that of caffeine). In the pilot study, participants will be pre-screened for PARQ, resting BP and 12 lead ECG as well as resting metabolic rate and they will then undertake four 5k trials in total. Two of the 5k time trials (minimum of three days apart) on the treadmill will aim to detect natural biological variability, any differences after these trials may indicate an effect of the curry and/or chilli.

These trials will be self-paced but participants will be instructed to try to complete the 5k as fast as they can. To test the hypothesis, the participants will complete a further two 5k runs  randomly assigned to either eating a chilli containing curry or a curry without chilli (which contains the same ingredients as the regular curry, but no chilli).

Dr Stewart Bruce-Low, Associate Professor in Sports and Exercise Science at Southampton Solent University, who is leading the research study says: “The rationale to the study is that there were four competitors disqualified in the show jumping events at the Beijing Olympics after testing positive for capsaicin. They were all horses!”

Dr Ali Hill, a Registered Nutritionist and Senior Lecturer at Southampton Solent University and co-researcher on the project continues, “Capsaicin is banned for horses because of its potential performance-enhancing effects as it is believed to be a stimulant and may dull the sensitivity to pain. No such ban exists in humans and nor has this been tested in human sporting performance, such as football players.’

A pilot study has been carried out in conjunction with independent production company Pergall for their ‘Late Kick Off’ football programme on BBC1 in the south, south west and west (Monday nights and iPlayer). The first part of this pilot study will be broadcast at 11.20pm on Monday 10 March, and the results will be revealed on the programme a couple of weeks later on 24 March.