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Natural Supplement Enhances Exercise Performance by 20%, Study Says

Tim Boyer's picture

Exercise training is a great way to lose weight, build muscle and improve cardiac health. And, as can be seen in numerous supplement advertisements, there is a growing market for pills and powders that can enhance your exercise performance and make you fitter faster. However, the majority of such supplements have been met with skepticism by health experts saying that the research to back the claims—“just isn’t there.” Today, however, that may change as researchers recently announce that by adding resveratrol to the diet of rats during exercise training increased their performance by 20% in comparison to rats that exercised without the resveratrol supplement.

In a recent article titled “Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats” published in The Journal of Physiology, Canadian researchers believe that they have found that the antioxidant resveratrol is “an effective ergogenic aid that enhances exercise performance over exercise alone.”

Resveratrol is a plant-derived polyphenolic phytoalexin reported to have anti-oxidant, anti- inflammatory and cardio-protective properties. It is more commonly known as the red grape extract that garnered news media attention as the reason why the French—known for their overall high fat diet—have an overall incidence of cardiovascular disease that is significantly lower than in other nations. In the past few years numerous articles have been published touting the benefits of taking resveratrol supplements to combat a wide range of ailments such as obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and even extending longevity. Currently, resveratrol supplements are extracted from Japanese Knotweed.

Perhaps one of the more surprising past research findings of resveratrol is that in one study it was determined that taking resveratrol alone can mimic the benefits of exercise without having to exercise. This finding was the basis of the aforementioned Canadian study that wanted to determine whether taking resveratrol in combination with exercise could enhance physical performance even further.

The study tested 4 groups of laboratory Wistar rats that consisted of two groups of sedentary rats that were randomly assigned to a diet that either contained or lacked a resveratrol supplement; and, two groups of exercise trained rats that were also fed a diet that either contained or lacked a resveratrol supplement. The exercise trained rats were placed on a treadmill under a progressive exercise program that lasted 12 weeks.

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What the researchers found was quite remarkable. While the sedentary rats fed the resveratrol supplement achieved a 25% increase in exercise performance over sedentary rats on a normal diet without resveratrol, the exercise trained rats on resveratrol achieved a further 20% performance boost over exercise trained non-resveratrol diet fed rats.

In other words, the researchers’ results demonstrated that the addition of resveratrol improves exercise performance beyond exercise training alone.

“We were excited when we saw that resveratrol showed results similar to what you would see from extensive endurance exercise training,” says Jason Dyck the principle investigator of the study who works in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry as a researcher in the department of Pediatrics and the department of Pharmacology. “We immediately saw the potential for this and thought that we identified ‘improved exercise performance in a pill.'”

While using a resveratrol supplement to enhance exercise performance by as much as potentially 20% in human athletes raises some interesting issues, Dyck and his colleagues are looking at the potential this has on treating patients who would benefit from exercise, but are physically/medically disabled.

“I think resveratrol could help patient populations who want to exercise but are physically incapable. Resveratrol could mimic exercise for them or improve the benefits of the modest amount of exercise that they can do,” says Dyck. “It is very satisfying to progress from basic research in a lab to testing in people, in a short period of time.”

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats” The Journal of Physiology Vol. 590, pp. 2783-2799. June, 2012; Vernon W. Dolinsky et al.