The Exercise Antioxidant

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Praised for protecting against cancer, heart disease, and even wrinkles, resveratrol – a potent antioxidant abundant in red wine, peanuts, and certain berries – may also boost exercise performance. A new study published in the ‘Journal of Physiology’ found that rats given a high-powered resveratrol supplement had better muscle strength, heart function, and energy metabolism than a control group.

“Resveratrol improves energy production in the heart and likely also in the skeletal muscle,” says Jason Dyck, lead study author and director of the University of Alberta’s Cardiovascular Research Centre. “Also, in the presence of resveratrol, the heart remodels in a way that is consistent with more intense exercise training. We believe that these alterations contribute to increased athletic performance in rats.”

Great news for rodents, but what about for you? Since many other resveratrol effects initially observed in animals – such as cardio-protective and antidiabetic perks – have also been reported in humans, Dyck feels strongly that these latest findings will also translate to people.

But the takeaway here is not to go guzzle a grenache or pinot. You’d consume a gazillion grams of sugar and get completely hammered before netting the resveratrol benefits seen in this study. And even then, your body would be working so hard to metabolize the alcohol and flush out excess toxins that those perks become moot. Same story with peanuts: They’re just not potent enough in resveratrol to rev up your workouts, and they sock you with salt, fat, and calories.

Here’s where resveratrol supplements, concentrated doses extracted from natural sources, step in. “Since the amount of resveratrol we used in our studies is much higher than could be achieved through diet alone, supplements can match the levels we administered to our rats,” Dyck says. “Because the long-term effects of taking resveratrol haven’t been studied in humans, I’m not yet comfortable recommending doses, but I take 250 mg per day.”