Jana holds balance of power
By Jenny McAsey
March 14, 2006
FUELLED by the controversial but legal protein supplement creatine, Jana Pittman will go into the Games muscled up and solid as a thoroughbred.
Balancing weight, body fat and muscle bulk is a delicate act for female athletes especially, and Pittman has yo-yoed her way to peak condition with the help of the amino acid powder that was also the supplement of choice for French tennis player Mary Pierce and American baseball sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Six weeks ago, when she came last in the 400m at the national selection trials in Sydney, Pittman was like a shrunken version of the powerful athlete who won the 2003 world championship in the 400m hurdles.
She looked skinny and relatively small, lacking the bulk in the shoulders, upper arms, thighs and buttocks that had been a feature of her physique.
The strong, intimidating figure was gone after a period of intense, heavy training at her base at Mt Martha in Victoria during the past six months. At 66kg, Pittman was lighter than she had been since she was a teenager.
But for an athlete who requires a mix of strength, endurance and speed for the demanding one-lap hurdles event, she was sapped.
Then 10 days ago in Brisbane, when she ran her last race before the Games, the imposing model was back as she won in 54.49sec to confirm she is on target to defend the Commonwealth crown she won in Manchester in 2002.
Pittman had put on two kilograms and was up to 68.2kg, the same as she weighed in Paris nearly three years ago when she beat world record-holder Yuliya Pechonkina to win the world title.
Pittman revealed that on the advice of her coach and fiance Chris Rawlinson she had turned to creatine, which she had never used before. “It’s really helped me. I’m feeling strong again,” Pittman said.
She took 10g daily for two weeks and immediately felt energised.
“For example I hadn’t done any bench press for about two years and my PB (personal best) was 70 kilos. Before creatine I couldn’t lift 65, I was in the gym and got all upset about it. Then on creatine I lifted 75 straight away.”
Pittman is not taking creatine now and is aware there are documented side effects from the supplement, which it is claimed increases the size of muscles and is supposed to give users more energy and power. Creatine is a natural compound made up of three amino acids and occurs naturally in a range of foods including fish and meat.
One common problem with its use is water retention and subsequent unwanted weight gain, so athletes have to be careful to stay well hydrated. [BULKING UP DUE TO WATER RETENTION IS A PROBLEM SO YOU SHOULD CONSUME MORE WATER, RIGHT, GO AHEAD ]
“It is very good for strength but you have to watch your cramping and muscle gains particularly for girls,” Pittman said.
“We can put on a lot of weight because you get quite water retentive so you need to drink a lot.”
The supplement, sometimes called a legal steroid, is not on any banned lists because it is in so many foods.
Pittman expects to stay around 67kg to 68kg for the Games, and after several years where her weight has bounced up and down like a pogo stick, she believes that is ideal.
Two years ago she spent too much time in the gym and bulked up to more than 70kg - her fat season as she calls it.
"One or two kilos can make a big difference, it is huge for me but as soon as I get to 70 kilos I run terribly. You have to be really careful to maintain that balance.
“A lot of us females think if you are really lean you are going to run really fast but it is not really about that - it is if you are really strong you are going to run really fast. If you are too skinny you haven’t got any bulk so it is quite a fine line,” Pittman said.