Capsaicin supplementation for exercise performance

Capsaicin is an active component found in chili peppers. There have been some recent studies suggesting that it can improve athletic performance.

Reading through this, these studies are both small (10 participants), but the results seemed significant. There are a number of other studies for the same thing that had similar results.

This idea has been floated around for a few years, so I wanted to share it. I don’t have any personal experience with this (yet), but the pills are cheap, so it’s an easy thing to test out.

Here is a quick snapshot. Sorry, I do not have the full studies to post, just the abstract.

Acute Capsaicin Supplementation Improves 1,500-m Running Time-Trial Performance and Rate of Perceived Exertion in Physically Active Adults

Ten physically active men (age = 23.5 ± 1.9 years, mass = 78.3 ± 12.4 kg, and height = 177.9 ± 5.9 cm) completed 2 randomized, double-blind trials: Capsaicin condition (12 mg) or a placebo condition. Forty-five minutes after supplement consumption, the participants performed a 1,500m running time trial.

The time was significantly (t = 3.316, p = 0.009) lower in the capsaicin (371.6 ± 40.8 seconds) compared with placebo (376.7 ± 39 seconds). Rate of perceived exertion was significantly (t = 2.753, p = 0.022) less in the capsaicin (18.0 ± 1.9) compared with the placebo (18.8 ± 1.3).

Acute Capsaicin Supplementation Improves Resistance Training Performance in Trained Men

Ten resistance-trained men (age = 22.7 ± 4.0 years, mass = 82.3 ± 9.6 kg, and height = 175 ± 0.1 cm) completed 2 randomized, double-blind trials: capsaicin condition (12 mg) or a placebo condition. Forty-five minutes after supplement consumption, subjects performed 4 sets until movement failure in the squat exercise at 70% of 1 repetition maximum with 90 seconds of rest interval between sets. The total mass lifted (total repetitions × mass lifted) was calculated.

…total mass lifted was higher in capsaicin compared with placebo (3,919.4 ± 1,227.4 kg vs. 3,179.6 ± 942.4 kg, p = 0.002).

Rate of perceived exertion was significantly less for the capsaicin condition than placebo (17.2 ± 1.0 vs. 18.3 ± 1.7, p = 0.048).


Here’s a non-scientific article about smelling salts. I know a few players who swear by them. They provide a short term burst of mental intensity, quickened reflexes, etc. Different sport, different type of performance enhancement.


That’s cool, thanks for sharing!

I remember they used to do that for boxing, but it is now banned for most matches I think.

I had often wondered if the reason they used it in hockey was the same, because sometimes boxing and hockey can be similar. :grinning:

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Agreed. I’ve tried the salts a few times and decided it’s a little too hard core. For me, BG range and direction can make a noticeable difference on my reflexes and quickness. Higher BG than I like means I start out feeling a little slow and dim witted. If I start out above about 150-180 or if I am trending higher at the start I have a hard time finding my mojo. If I’m in a better BG range or if I’m trending downward from 150-180 at the start there is a noticeable improvement in my quickness (for me… everybody’s DMV).


Yep!! I am totally with you there :arrow_up:.

BTW, I ordered some capsaicin pills, I will try them out. I can’t do a double-blind very easily, but I could do a single-blind with my wife handing me one pill or another before running, and me not looking at it.

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I’d be curious about your findings, Eric.

In looking at the strength based experiment, I’m wondering: did they do a “with capsaicin” trial, and a placebo trial for each individual, and base their findings on that? Or did they train in one workout session, in either the capsaicin or placebo group?

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I wish I knew that. It was not clearly explained in the abstract.

In most of the well-conducted running trials, they let each individual do the test twice, after a rest period of a week or so. With only 10 people, it would not seem to make sense if they split them into two groups and only let them run or lift once.

Thinking through this, I think you could actually do it blind yourself pretty easily.

Take two identical cups, maybe use paper cups for example. Put a pill in each (a test pill and a similarly shaped and sized placebo type of pill that would not have an impact on performance). Mix the cups and then swallow the pill from one of the cups without looking.

After your workout session, record your results and observations, and then look at the pill you did not swallow, and you will know which one you did take.

After several trials, maybe you have an idea if there was a difference?