NEW ZEALAND blackcurrant extract has been shown to improve climbing ability and support performance in a new, highly novel study from the University of Chichester.
Believed to be the first study to test the effects of functional food supplement in climbers, researchers found that seven days’ intake of two capsules of CurraNZ improved several performance factors in a group of 20 experienced graded climbers of mixed abilities.
The outcomes of the study has led one of Britain's leading climbing coaches, Jon Redshaw (left), to hail blackcurrant for the performance gains it can provide climbers, ahead of the sport's introduction to the Olympics in 2020.
The study abstract, released last month at the European Conference of Sport Science, showed New Zealand blackcurrant extract:
- Increased hang time 8%
- Increased climb duration 11% between climbs one and three, the point at which the control group experienced a 23% decrease in climb duration
Mark Willems, Professor of Sports and Exercise Physiology, says: “We found that blackcurrant enabled climbers to maintain their ability during climbs, when that ability was going down in the placebo group. It’s worth emphasizing that the 11% increase in climb duration with blackcurrant is significant.
“It fits the pattern we’re seeing in our studies that if you do something repeatedly over some time, that blackcurrant seems to be beneficial when you’re supposed to be in a fatigued state - you suffer less from the fatigue."
Climbing is one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK and will be added to the Olympic roster at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Professional climbing coach Jon Redshaw, one of the instigators behind the introduction of climbing at the Olympics, observes: “The importance of forearm blood flow for climbing performance, training and recovery can’t be stated enough.
"The research into CurraNZ is exciting and opens up the possibility of new performance gains for climbers both in-terms of endurance and also finger strength. This is a supplement I would recommend to all serious climbers to try.”
Until now, blackcurrant studies have only required simple tasks to measure performance in cyclists and runners. As well as testing endurance and strength, this study also demanded decision-making from subjects. Previous cognition studies have demonstrated that blackcurrants can aid concentration and reduce mental fatigue.
Professor Willems says: ”Climbers on a moving climbing wall need to look where to put their hands and feet, so it’s a more complex exercise modality than just sprinting and cycling. It is very possible that blackcurrant may have also improved participants’ decision making and allowed them to climb better or increase duration.”