A variety of antioxidants and super foods show promise to help get the most from exercise efforts and to also support improved recovery from exercise in the below studies.
CoQ10 boosted soccer performance
Professional soccer players often damage muscle. In this study over two soccer seasons, doctors measured CoQ10—ubiquinol—levels in 49 players in the Spanish First League team Athletic Club de Bilbao, pre-season, early-, and mid-season.
Overall, those with higher circulating ubiquinol levels had lower levels of creatine kinase, an enzyme that signals muscle damage, and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Those with higher ubiquinol levels also had better kidney function and higher muscle performance during matches.
“Our results suggest high levels of plasma CoQ10 can prevent muscle damage, improve kidney function and are associated with higher performance in professional soccer players during competition,” doctors concluded.
Reference: International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research; 2020, 10.1024/0300-9831/a000659
Greens for Speed
A diet rich in nitrates from green leafy vegetables such as arugula, chard, collards, dandelion, kale, and spinach strengthens the lower body. In this study, doctors measured nitrates in the diets of 3,759 men and women, average age 49, and found those who got 91 mg of nitrates per day—81 percent from vegetables—could knee-lift 5.7 more pounds than those who got no more than 47 mg. Also, the high-nitrate group rose from a seated position and walked a quarter-second faster on average than those in the low-nitrate group. “Nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster muscle strength, independent of physical activity,” doctors said, but recommend a balanced diet along with exercise.
Reference: Journal of Nutrition, May 2021, Vol. 151, No. 5, 1222–30
Ashwagandha, muscle strength & recovery
Ashwagandha is an herb with rejuvenating properties, according to Indian Ayurvedic medicine. In this study, 38 recreationally active men, average age 26.5 years, who trained no more than two to three times per week, took a placebo or 500 mg of ashwagandha extract per day.
After 12 weeks, those taking ashwagandha saw a 90 percent increase in leg strength, adding 20 pounds more than placebo during the squat exercise. Upper body strength also increased by 60 percent during the bench press. Men in the ashwagandha group reported recovering 14 percent faster than placebo, while those in the placebo group reported 40 percent more muscle soreness vs. ashwagandha.
Reference: Nutrients; 2018, Vol. 10, No. 11, E1807, Published Online
Rhodiola, mushroom, and muscle mass
Doctors wanted to know if sedentary young adults could enhance body composition with nutrition when beginning an endurance training program. In this pilot study, eight men and six women participated in supervised exercise training while taking a placebo or a combination of rhodiola and cordyceps mushroom at 9 mg per pound of body weight per day.
After eight weeks, compared to placebo, those in the rhodiola-cordyceps mushroom group had lost more body weight, reduced more fat mass in the upper arms, and added more muscle mass in the legs.
Doctors said the results suggest rhodiola with cordyceps mushroom can help untrained individuals safely improve results as they initiate an endurance training program. Doctors don’t know the mechanism responsible for these benefits, but believe rhodiola and cordyceps mushroom help the body adapt to physical stress.
Reference: Nutrients; 2019, Vol. 11, No. 10, nu11102357
Curcumin better than anti-inflammatories
Rugby is an intense, high-impact physical sport. In this pilot study, 50 male rugby players complaining of muscle and joint pain from injury and exertion overload took a standard analgesic anti-inflammatory or 1,000 mg of curcumin every 12 hours for up to 10 days.
Doctors measured pain and physical function before, during, and 10 days after the end of the supplement period. Both groups improved in pain and physical function compared to the start of the study, but 16 percent of those taking the standard analgesic complained of gastrointestinal side effects compared to 4 percent for curcumin.
Discussing the findings, doctors said even though the study sample size was small, curcumin appears to be a safe and effective remedy for relieving muscle and joint pain from intense, high-impact physical activity.
Reference: European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences; 2017, Vol. 21, No. 21, 4935-40
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