Giving athletes the performance edge – naturally

Research indicates New Zealand Blackcurrants give athletes the performance edge – naturally

With athletes doing whatever it takes to be the fittest, fastest and strongest and beat the next record, groundbreaking research indicating that New Zealand blackcurrants could be the next big sports performance enhancer can only be exciting news for exercise professionals worldwide.

For years, sportspeople have been using ergogenic aids during high-intensity exercise to give them the edge over their competitors.  A performance enhancer or ergogenic aid is anything that provides a mental or physical edge while training or competing. These substances can be as harmless as caffeine, creatine, and sports drinks but also include chemicals such as anabolic steroids which are not only illegal but can cause long-term health problems and even death.

Many of these aids have not even been scientifically proven to enhance athletic performance and that is one of the reasons why the findings of this evidence-based research using New Zealand blackcurrants, is of such interest.

About the New Zealand Blackcurrant sports performance research

A trial carried out by a team of scientists, led by Mark Willems, Professor of Exercise Physiology at Chichester University in the UK, supplemented male athletes from cycling and triathlon clubs, who typically cycled 8 to 10 hours a week. The participants took a New Zealand blackcurrant extract or a placebo for seven days and then tested for body fat use, and whether they were faster on a 16.1 km time-trial.

Findings showed that those athletes taking the New Zealand blackcurrant extract, oxidised (burned) substantially more fat than those on the placebo and were also able to cycle on average 2.4% faster during the time-trial; such improvement is meaningful in the real world of sport.

This work and further follow-up studies by Willems provided, for the first time that a product made from berries may have a significant effect on exercise in different modalities and over a broad range of intensities and durations. READ MORE DETAILS of the studies here

How do NZ Blackcurrants cause these fabulous physiological, metabolic and performance effects?

Blackcurrants are well-known to be packed with a range of healthy compounds, including massive doses of the antioxidant, vitamin C. They also contain polyphenols, particularly anthocyanins – compounds that give the berries their intense purple colour. New Zealand Blackcurrant varietals, in particular, have high anthocyanin levels. It is the anthocyanin content of berries that potentially links them to anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity and aspects of sports performance enhancement.

Additionally, it seems that blackcurrant intake increases peripheral blood flow in humans, again, possibly due to the anthocyanins causing blood vessel dilation. Increased blood flow is necessary for an exercising person, as the blood delivers nutrients and oxygen and removes waste products from working muscles.

Also, Willem’s studies indicate that the increased body fat oxidation due to blackcurrant intake may lead to less lactate build-up and therefore greater performance and recovery.

What next?

Willems suggests that more research is recommended to address the effects of blackcurrant intake on exercise in extreme environmental conditions, dose-response effects to establish blackcurrant dosing strategies, and the implications of blackcurrant intake for individuals with clinical conditions, such as peripheral arterial disease.

Willems says that it will be challenging to design studies to examine the mechanisms of the effects of blackcurrant-intake during exercise and recovery due to the difficulty of tracking the anthocyanin and other compounds once they are in the body. However, enough is understood to know that NZ Blackcurrant has shown to be effective during exercise and recovery and is making headway as a new nutritional ergogenic aid with implications for enhancing the benefits of exercise for health, training and competition

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