High-intensity exercise can affect many physiological processes in the human body. Damage to muscles, increased free radical production, and an inflammatory response may occur after strenuous exercise. These changes may last for approximately 96 hours after exercise.
A systematic review by Canals-Garzón and colleagues explored the potential impact of certain micronutrients on post-exercise oxidative stress and muscle damage. The authors describe studies involving pomegranate intake and exercise recovery. Pomegranate contains polyphenols, such as ellagitannins and other bioactive constituents, that have been shown to support a healthy inflammatory response and a healthy cellular environment. One clinical trial involving Olympic weightlifting exercises and supplementation with pomegranate juice showed improvements in parameters related to exercise recovery and improvements in oxidative stress.
Other studies reported by Canals-Garzón and colleagues involve nutrients, including coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is also known as ubiquinone because it is present everywhere in the human body. It is a powerful antioxidant and helps protect mitochondrial membranes from oxidative damage. A clinical trial involved supplementation with 200 mg of CoQ10 for 2 weeks prior to a strenuous exercise protocol and reported decreases in oxidative stress.
Oats (Avena sativa) may also support certain aspects of exercise recovery. They have been shown in preclinical studies to support cellular health and may protect against cell apoptosis related to oxidative stress. A clinical trial involved a daily intake of 360 g oatmeal for 8 weeks along with high-intensity exercise. Improvements in parameters related to the inflammatory response and muscle damage were observed.
Blueberries contain many health-supportive compounds, including anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have been shown to support the body’s response to oxidative stress, the inflammatory response, and vascular and cognitive health. A trial involved increased blueberry intake in the presence of high-intensity physical exercise and reported an acceleration of muscle recovery and improvements in antioxidative status.
Study strengths, as reported by Canals-Garzón and colleagues, include a comprehensive literature search spanning the past decade. Limitations to the review include the relatively small amount of research studies eligible for analysis. The authors also indicated that from the studies included in the review, dietary intake among the participants was largely not taken into account; this may be a factor in markers related to oxidative stress. The authors suggest a standardized diet in similar clinical trials.
Research suggests that certain nutrients and foods, including CoQ10, blueberries, oats, and pomegranate, may support antioxidative status. They may also support muscle health and post-exercise recovery.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT