Can the flavonoid quercetin improve athletic performance?

Athletes looking for a new supplement to boost their performance may try quercetin. A new pilot study reveals that quercetin can reduce muscular pain and cramps after exercise. This study was carried out by a team of researchers from Italy who sought to determine the potential sports nutrition benefits of quercetin. These findings were published in the journal Minerva Medica.

For the study, the researchers recruited 48 amateur athletes, who were divided into two groups: a treatment group and a control group. Participants in the treatment group received one tablet containing 250 milligrams (mg) of quercetin twice a day for two weeks. On the other hand, the control group did not take any supplement or placebo.

The researchers put all participants through the same training and nutritional plans. The training involved a swim distance in open seawater of 759 m, a cycling distance of 20 km, and a 5 km run — all of which were conducted at the beachside of Pescara, Italy.

All participants attended a measurement run at the beginning of the study and a second final measurement run at the end of the study. The researchers also measured the subjective performance, post-training pain, cramps, time to full recovery, and oxidative stress at the end of the study.

The results showed that participants who took quercetin supplements finished the run faster than those in the control group. In addition, supplementing with quercetin resulted in improved post-run muscular pain, cramps, localized pain, and the post-exercise recovery time. Oxidative stress was also reduced and no side effects were reported.

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In conclusion, the findings of the study suggest that oral supplementation with quercetin may lead to better training and performance in amateur triathlon athletes.

Additional exercise benefits of quercetin

An earlier study found that supplementation with quercetin boosts antioxidant defenses and prevents oxidative damage caused by exercise. In this study, researchers from the Foro Italico University of Rome in Italy looked at the effect of the flavonoid on oxidative damage.

For this purpose, the Italian researchers recruited 14 men with an average age of 25.5 to participate in the study. They randomly assigned the participants to consume either 500 mg of quercetin or placebo. The interventions were taken twice a day for a period of two weeks before and after a bout of eccentric exercise. After this, the participants underwent a three-week washout period, and then switched to the other intervention. The researchers also collected blood samples from the participants before, after two weeks of supplementation, and after a bout of eccentric exercise.

The results revealed that supplementation with quercetin led to significant decreases in the levels of lipid peroxidation in red blood cells and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARs), which is a marker for oxidative damage. The researchers found that after one bout of eccentric exercise, quercetin improved the redox status of the participants and reduced levels of TBARs both in red blood cells and plasma.

From these findings, the Italian research team concluded that taking quercetin supplements can protect against oxidative damage caused by eccentric exercise. As a result, oxygen is efficiently delivered to the tissue, which could have been compromised due to the increase in free radicals produced after exercise.

Aside from supplements, you can get quercetin from foods such as apples, black tea, green tea, broccoli, grapes, leafy vegetables, peppers, and red wine. (Related: Quercetin is one of the most potent natural antioxidants on the planet.)

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