2000m Rowing – Possible Supplements to Improve Performance

Competitive time trial rowing events are held over a 2000m straight line course, where completion of the course ranges from 5.5 to 7 minutes depending on individual event classification (Australian Institute of Sport, 2013).

Rowing places a great demand on the metabolic pathways during the course of a 2000m event. It has been reported that under simulated race conditions, energy expenditure was calculated at the rate of 36 kcal per minute (Hagerman, 1984). Aerobic metabolism is favoured, and is predominant during the 2000m race, while anaerobic metabolism dictates performance in the initial and latter phases, 70-75% and 25-30% of total substrate metabolism respectively (Hagerman, 1984).

Rowing places a high demands on both metabolic pathways, however the main emphasis of this mini literature review is to evaluate the effectiveness of ergogenic aids in enhancing the buffering capacity during the anaerobic dominant phases in training; sodium bicarbonate, beta-alanine. Caffeine was also reviewed to determine its’ effects on rowing performance and fuel utilisation during competition use.

The use of PubMed, Epsco and Google Scholar yielded twenty-six studies relating to rowing and the fields of interest. Of which, ten were deemed to meet the inclusion criteria. The search was divided into four areas; caffeine for competition purposes, sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine for training use, and carbohydrate intake on Immunosupression with rowing.

Findings and Key Recommendations

Caffeine for Competition:

  • Caffeine has a dose dependant response which is directed by individual tolerability.
  • The upper dose of 9mg.kg-1.bm-1 may be ergogenic in enhancing time trial rowing performances.
  • The lower doses of 2, 4, and 6mg.kg-1.bm-1 have little ergogenic effects on time trial performances.
  • Caffeine ingestion may decrease ratings of perceived exertion, resulting in increased effort and power output.
  • Caffeine’s stimulatory effect on adrenaline enhances fat oxidation, resulting in glycogen sparing. However may be ergolytic due to glucose oxidation being the primary fuel source during anaerobic conditions.

Sodium Bicarbonate for Training:

  • Acute and serial loading protocols of 0.3g.kg-1.bm-1and 0.5g.kg-1.bm-1 respectively have minor ergogenic effects on time trial performances.
  • Acute and serial appears to provide a favourable physiological buffering environment, however inconclusively correlates with time trial rowing performances.
  • Sodium bicarbonate ingestion may cause gastro intestinal discomforts, resulting in ergolytic outcomes.

Beta-Alanine for Training:

  • Beta-alanine increases the non-bicarbonate buffering capacity through elevated muscle carnosine levels.
  • Time trial rowing performances are enhanced from chronic supplementation of an absolute dose of 6.4-7g.day-1, or relative dose of 80mg.kg-1.bm-1 for 28 days.
  • Chronic ingestion of beta-alanine (6.4g.day-1) for 28 days followed by acute sodium bicarbonate ingestion (0.3g.kg-1.bm-1) prior to a 2000m time trial further enhances performance compared to beta-alanine alone.

Carbohydrate Role in Immunosuppression:

  • A 6% carbohydrate solution ingested pre, during or post exercise may be favourable in reducing systematic inflammation and exercised induced stressors. However, evidence is inconclusive with regards to rowing.
  • Research into higher intensity exercise is required to elicit a more aggressive immune response, in return providing a suitable stimulus for carbohydrate solution to act upon.


Research into ergogenic and nutritional manipulations on rowing performances appears to be relatively infant, and the main focus needed for research into this field is primarily to acquire more information through more research to provide rowers and coaches’ with validated recommendations.



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