Early data from a new study1 has shown how phytochemicals in New Zealand blackcurrant extract, CurraNZ, help athletes recover faster after exhaustive exercise by speeding up carbohydrate storage in muscle.
In just a short period of time, the anthocyanin-rich New Zealand blackcurrant supplement effectively accelerated the rates of glycogen resynthesis in muscle by 10%.
Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrate in the body. Three-quarters of the body’s glycogen is stored in skeletal muscle and, as the predominant fuel source during strenuous training, recovery of glycogen stores is paramount to aerobic performance and recovery.
The exciting finding add further lustre to the growing reputation and significance of the proprietary CurraNZ extract for accelerating recovery from exercise and lowering barriers to performance.
It is believed to be the first time this mode of action has been shown in polyphenol supplements. It provides a greater understanding of the unique properties of New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanins, which scientists now regard as ‘essential’ for active people, because of their array of positive benefits2.
Researcher Dr Sam Shepherd, who led the Liverpool John Moores University study, describes the breakthrough as ‘meaningful’.
Clinical pharmacist, Mike Wakeman, advisor for CurraNZ.com, notes the growing interest in supplemental interventions for recovery and performance in endurance sport. He says: “Recovery is a hot topic in endurance and team-based sports, we are seeing ever-increasing training volumes in athletes, even amateurs, where an ability to recover between sessions and cope with high training loads is critical.
"This adds to the scientific picture showing CurraNZ provides three-times faster recovery of muscle strength, which is important, and offsets delayed onset muscle soreness, whilst reducing tissue damage.”
Dr Shepherd’s research follows on from earlier muscle recovery studies, in which the berry’s powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-promoting functions were identified as other key modes of action.
In summary, he says: “We are seeing here that blackcurrant seems to be ‘priming’ the muscle and changing the ‘muscle machinery’, which supports carbohydrate storage. This is really positive, and further demonstrates the multi-faceted recovery functions of CurraNZ.
“Based on the evidence, I am convinced there is a place for New Zealand blackcurrant extract as a nutritional intervention to support post-exercise recovery.”
The study, New Zealand blackcurrant extract enhances skeletal muscle glycogen re-synthesis in response to sub-optimal carbohydrate ingestion, has been awarded the Professor Kevin Tipton prize for a poster presentation at the International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference, in Manchester on December 18-20. The prize for Poster Presentation is judged on the originality of the data, scientific writing and potential for impact within the sport nutrition community.
The study is ongoing and findings will be peer-reviewed and published in 2023.
About the study
With datasets from eight participants presented in this abstract, in total, 13 trained male cyclists will be tested in the 7-day supplementation protocol with either 600mg CurraNZ or placebo in a double-blinded, randomised, cross-over study design. On day 6 of supplementation participants undertake a glycogen-depleting bout of exercise followed by limited intake of carbohydrate. The following morning, they are subjected to another bout of exhaustive exercise, to ensure their carbohydrate stores are depleted.
In the four hours following, they are provided with carbohydrate to replenish stores in muscle, with biopsies taken across various time points to measure rates of muscle glycogen replenishment.
Background information on carbohydrate for muscle recovery and performance
Carbohydrate stored in muscle (glycogen) is a primary fuel used during exercise which is depleted during long duration, high intensity or exhaustive training and competition activities. Replenishing carbohydrate fuel stores in muscle following exercise is often a challenge for athletes.
Carbohydrate consumption at a rate of >1.2 g/kg bodyweight per hour maximises glycogen resynthesis. However, this quantity of carbohydrate is challenging to consume for many athletes, and therefore the benefit of using additional non-carbohydrate factors to support glycogen resynthesis are of interest.
Therefore, sports nutrition recommendations state that following exhaustive exercise, carbohydrate consumption should be prioritized in an attempt to quickly restore muscle glycogen to pre-exercise levels, so athletes are prepared for their next exercise-training bout.
Ergogenic aids which improve the rate of glycogen resynthesis could be of particular benefit in this context and would improve the speed of recovery from hard exercise sessions.