06 Jan Review Finds Antioxidant Supplements of Little to No Benefit in Exercise Recovery
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Mayur Ranchordas, SFHEA
Senior Lecturer in Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
Sport Nutrition Consultant
Chair of the Sport and Exercise Research Ethics Group
Sheffield Hallam University
Academy of Sport and Physical Activity
Faculty of Health and Wellbeing
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: People engaging in intense exercise often take antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin C and/or E or antioxidant-enriched foods, before and after exercise in the anticipation that these will help reduce muscle soreness. In a new review published in the Cochrane Library we looked at the evidence from 50 studies. These all compared high-dose antioxidant supplementation with a placebo and their participants all engaged in strenuous exercise that was sufficient to cause muscle soreness. Of the 1089 participants included in the review, nearly nine out of ten of these were male and most participants were recreationally active or moderately trained.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We found that high dose antioxidant supplementation, thus in excess of the normal recommended daily dose for antioxidants, does not appear to reduce muscle soreness early on after exercise or at one, two, three or four days after exercise. At all time points, the slight differences in the average pain scores found for participants taking supplements compared with those taking placebos were smaller than the difference that people would consider important or even notice. Only nine studies reported on adverse effects and only two found adverse effects. The evidence for muscle soreness is considered to be ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ quality. This was mainly because the majority of studies had aspects that could have affected the reliability of their results and in some cases because of variation in the results of the studies.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Some athletes are strategically taking antioxidant supplements in order to accelerate recovery during periods of intense competition rather than taking them every day. For example, in professional football, when there is a period of fixture congestion, a team may play three matches in an eight day period (e.g. Premier League fixtures Saturday to Saturday separated by a mid-week Champions League fixture), dietary antioxidants could be strategically used to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. This would allow the players to recovery more quickly in preparation for the next match. In professional cycling, a Tour de France rider may take antioxidant supplements to accelerate recovery after each stage, in order to recover more quickly for the following day’s stage. Recreationally active individuals may take antioxidants to recovery from new exercise programs to reduce muscle soreness. Our review found that antioxidant supplementation may very slightly reduce muscle soreness in the first three days after exercise, however, these reductions were so small that they were unlikely to make any difference. Rather than taking antioxidants supplements, eat a rainbow coloured range of fruits and vegetables in your diet and aim for 5-7 portions per day.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: The findings from this review provide an opportunity for researchers and other stakeholders to come together and consider what are the priorities, and underlying justifications, for future research in this area. Future studies would benefit from standardisation of methods and antioxidant protocols. Future studies should ensure that the rationale for the antioxidant protocol is considered and specified, and attention given to dietary control and other factors that may affect recovery as these are important
confounders when investigating the impact of antioxidant supplementation on exercise performance and recovery. As the majority of the participants in our review were male and recreationally active, we suggest that a case could be made for elite athletes, not included in this review, as this particular group have a different physiological and training status. As recently noted, future studies should employ a parallel design with larger sample sizes
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Ranchordas MK, Rogerson D, Soltani H. Antioxidants for preventing and reducing muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD009789. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009789.
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