Athletics Weekly - - Performance - Anita Bean is an award win­ning reg­is­tered sport and ex­er­cise nu­tri­tion­ist and au­thor of The Com­plete Guide To Sports Nu­tri­tion (Blooms­bury, £18.99) pub­lished this month

BLACK­CUR­RANT ex­tract is a con­cen­trated, pow­dered form of the fruit, avail­able as cap­sules. What are they sup­posed to do? Since they con­tain a high con­cen­tra­tion of an­tho­cyanins, a sub-class of flavonoids (phy­tonu­tri­ents) that have pow­er­ful an­tiox­i­dant prop­er­ties and anti-in­flam­ma­tory ef­fects, black­cur­rants are thought to en­hance per­for­mance and re­duce post-ex­er­cise in­flam­ma­tion, sore­ness and mus­cle dam­age.

New Zealand-grown black­cur­rants have 1.5 times more an­tho­cyanins than those grown in Europe.

What’s the ev­i­dence?

An­i­mal stud­ies have shown that an­tho­cyanins act as pow­er­ful va­sodila­tors. It is thought that the an­tho­cyanins in black­cur­rant ex­tract have the same ef­fect in hu­mans, in­creas­ing pe­riph­eral blood flow and oxy­gen de­liv­ery to the mus­cles and thus im­prov­ing per­for­mance.

In 2009, re­searchers at the New Zealand In­sti­tute for Plant and Food

Re­search found that 240mg of black­cur­rant ex­tract con­sumed im­me­di­ately be­fore and af­ter half an hour of mod­er­ate in­ten­sity aer­o­bic ex­er­cise re­duced ex­er­cise in­duced mus­cle dam­age com­pared to a placebo.

More re­cently, re­search in 2015 at the Univer­sity of Chich­ester found that seven days of sup­ple­men­ta­tion with 300mg of black­cur­rant ex­tract im­proved per­for­mance in a se­ries of re­peated tread­mill sprints (6x19sec) and also im­proved lac­tate clear­ance

(ie has­tened mus­cle re­cov­ery) af­ter ex­er­cise.

A fur­ther study two years ago with 14 cy­clists showed that black­cur­rant sup­ple­men­ta­tion in­creased fat ox­i­da­tion by 27% dur­ing mod­er­ate in­ten­sity cy­cling (65% VO2­max) and also im­proved 16.1km time trial per­for­mance by an av­er­age 2.4%. Re­searchers also found that sup­ple­ments re­sulted in a higher lac­tate tol­er­ance dur­ing the time trial, which sug­gests you would be able to ex­er­cise bet­ter at higher in­ten­si­ties be­fore reach­ing ex­haus­tion.

Triath­letes who con­sumed black­cur­rant ex­tract for seven days had 14% lower lev­els of blood lac­tate when cy­cling at an in­ten­sity cor­re­spond­ing to their VO2­max and up to 27% at lower ex­er­cise in­ten­si­ties.

Do I need it?

To date, only a few smaller stud­ies have been car­ried out on black­cur­rant ex­tract with ath­letes so it’s not pos­si­ble to make firm rec­om­men­da­tions to take it. How­ever, the re­sults have been pos­i­tive and sug­gest that black­cur­rant ex­tract may ben­e­fit per­for­mance by in­creas­ing fat ox­i­da­tion, re­duc­ing mus­cle sore­ness and im­prov­ing re­cov­ery.

No side ef­fects have been re­ported.

Black­cur­rants: rich in po­tent an­tiox­i­dants that aid mus­cle re­cov­ery

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