Study shows blackcurrant extract improves recovery after exercise

Supplementation resulted in 47% and 49% less muscle soreness at 24 and 48 hours, and 84% less muscle tissue damage at 96 hours, compared to placebo

A recent study1 published in Nutrients from the University of Surrey shows CurraNZ's New Zealand Blackcurrant extract can reduce muscle soreness by half in recreational exercisers undertaking strenuous exercise.

In the study, the blackcurrant supplement provided a "stark" improvement to functional recovery when taken before and after a damaging bout of bicep curl exercises. The study was done in men and women who were unaccustomed to exercise involving strength training to build muscle, otherwise known as resistance training.

The study’s clinical data demonstrated three times faster recovery of muscle strength and reduced muscle soreness. It also found supplementation resulted in 47% and 49% less muscle soreness at 24 and 48 hours, and 84% less muscle tissue damage at 96 hours, compared to placebo.

Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) typically involves two phases of recovery, with a disruption to muscle fibres followed by a rise in inflammation, swelling and oxidative stress. These secondary events lead to additional tissue damage and the release of toxic byproducts, which result in impaired muscle function and pain, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

New Zealand blackcurrant extract contains anthocyanins, which are the natural pigments responsible for the fruit’s dark purple colouring. These bioactives are regarded as nature’s biological response modifiers, the company says, because of their antioxidant, cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory qualities.

The research suggests supplementing before exercise may prime muscle tissue to cope with the increase in oxidative stress, while continued supplementation in the recovery period could reduce secondary damage.

In this study, blackcurrant consumption reduced recovery time, with participants regaining muscle function within one day. Recovery can take several days, the company points out, as demonstrated in the placebo group.

Furthermore, supplementation also reduced the release of creatine kinase (a protein that leaks out of damaged muscle tissue into the circulation) by 84% compared to placebo at 96 hours post-exercise, indicating the berry’s compounds protected muscles from secondary tissue damage.

Dr Julie Hunt, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Sciences at the School of Biosciences and Medicine at the University of Surrey, led the research, using a minimum dose of 300 mg CurraNZ Blackcurrant Extract. Participants took one capsule seven days leading to the experiment, an hour beforehand, then four days following testing.

Dr Hunt said: “You can see by the creatine kinase levels that our exercise protocol caused significant muscle damage in the placebo group, but this response was absent in the New Zealand blackcurrant – CurraNZ – group.”

“In line with this, those who consumed the extract reported half the level of muscle soreness and regained muscle strength faster during the 96-hour recovery period.”

“This is really indicative that the New Zealand blackcurrant extract suppressed the inflammatory and oxidative stress responses that stimulate pain receptors and further (secondary) muscle damage following strenuous exercise, aiding recovery”.

“Non-resistance-trained individuals are likely to experience more severe muscle damage as a result of doing strenuous unaccustomed exercise. They are likely to feel stiff and sore after a heavy session, which could put them off returning to the gym. A nutritional product like this is relevant because we want individuals to exercise at a sufficient frequency to promote training adaptations and health outcomes.

References

1. Consumption of New Zealand Blackcurrant Extract improves recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in non-resistance trained men and women: A double-blind randomized trial, Nutrients, 2021 doi.org/10.3309/xxxxx

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