Exercise. Recover. Repeat

    Why Curcumin is a great adjunct for sports performance. 

    Over the past several decades, sports nutrition has become a specialized category to reflect the fact that building stronger muscles is more than just protein powders and weight gainers. When creatine monohydrate was marketed as an agent to support anabolism and recovery it illuminated the fact that working muscles have specific needs that can affect exercise performance. Today, there are numerous ingredients addressing various aspects of muscle performance as pre- and post-workout formulas. All of them play a role in some aspects of supporting exercise performance and recovery but there is another ingredient that may support all of them. Curcumin is a key ingredient for sports nutrition because it addresses the key elements for performance and recovery:

    • Supporting cardiovascular function
    • Antioxidant and inflammation support for recovery

    Curcumin supports the most important muscle in the body — the heart.

    Optimizing cardiovascular function is the cornerstone of any supplement regimen. A healthy heart provides efficient transportation of oxygen and nutrients to working muscles and effective removal of lactate and carbon dioxide to maintain higher intensities for longer. Bolstering endothelial nitric oxide has long been a target for supplements because of its ability to increase blood flow. Arginine has long been touted for cardiovascular benefits but recent research has shown that curcumin may be a more promising agent.

    Physical activity causes arteries to dilate to increase blood flow, nutrient delivery and waste removal. In healthy blood vessels, dilation is primarily regulated by nitric oxide (NO) produced by endothelium-derived nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). Therefore, decreased production of NO can impair blood flow and availability of oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, to optimize exercise performance it becomes important to support NO production and curcumin has been shown to do just that.

    A FloMeD study measured the direct impact of a high bioavailable form curcumin on healthy circulation using flow mediated dilation (FMD) — a process that measures the ability of blood vessels to dilate. The results showed that supplementing with 1000 mg curcumin significantly improved dilation by 37%. When compared to other studies on natural compounds, such as arginine, curcumin showed a greater improvement in FMD. The result is greater blood flow and nutrient availability to support performance.

    Curcumin reduces oxidative stress and inflammation from strenuous exercise.

    The health benefits of exercise are apparent. But there is a consequence: it can increase free radical production and inflammation. If left unchecked the outcome can result in delayed recovery and even muscle damage and reduced joint function. Curcumin’s antioxidant potential and ability to modulate inflammatory pathways underscores its potential as an adjunct for recovery. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant on its own but can also support the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase. Curcumin also supports healthy inflammation after strenuous exercise most likely through a variety of mechanism targeting inflammatory pathways and compounds like cyclooxygenase, interleukins and cytokines. A recent study in healthy adults undergoing strenuous exercise demonstrated that curcumin effectively reduces creatine kinase and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Creatine kinase levels are elevated due to muscle damage resulting from strenuous exercise. Interleukin-6 acts as an inflammatory molecule also produced by muscles during strenuous exercise. The ability of curcumin to reduce oxidative stress and markers of inflammation may improve recovery and muscle performance.

    Sports nutrition continues to evolve but the underlying outcomes are the same — to allow for greater performance for longer periods of time and recover faster. Supplements are quickly catching up to the science to exploit the muscle’s nutritional needs. Curcumin is a multifunctional ingredient for sports performance that addresses those needs that everyone from the elite athlete to the weekend warrior is looking for to up their game.


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    Brian Appell is currently the Marketing Manager at OmniActive Health Technologies. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition. For the last 20 years, Brian has worked in the natural products industry in product development, business development and marketing. As a writer and editor, he has collaborated on several books and continues to contribute to magazine publications.


    NOTE: The statements presented in this blog should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Dietary supplements do not treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before adding a dietary supplement to (or removing one from) your daily regimen. WholeFoods Magazine does not endorse any specific brand or product. The opinions expressed in bylined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher.