This week I'm going to cover a few products that are a bit more obscure. Folks may encounter them, so I believe it is worth covering them. In fact, at this year's Arnold Classic, I saw this first product being promoted as a powerful antioxidant.
As a scientist, I am always interested in learning about something new, so I got some literature, did some digging myself, and found a research study that just came out a few months ago.
Reducing Oxidative Stress
Everyone is familiar with
glutamine and all the other "basics."
Have you ever heard of chokeberry juice, though? Well, researchers in Poland decided to show how chokeberry juice may reduce oxidative stress after a rowing workout (although any workout would induce stress, so this carries over to other exercises as well).
Oxidative Stress In A Nutshell
First a quick background about oxidative stress (OS) so it's not too confusing. OS is a general term used to describe the damage in a cell, tissue, or organ, caused by something called the reactive oxygen species (ROS).
I'm sure you are all familiar with a different term for ROS-free radicals. ROS represent a class of molecules that are derived from the metabolism of oxygen and exist in all aerobic organisms (that's us).
There are many different sources by which ROS can come from. ROS are produced internally (metabolism, breathing, digestion, exercise, etc) but also come from external factors (smoking or second hand smoke, environmental pollutants such as exhaust from cars or boats, excess alcohol consumption, asbestos, exposure to ionizing radiation, and bacterial, fungal or viral infections.
Needless to say, it's impossible to totally eliminate all free radicals and is not necessarily warranted either. However, knowing the harmful effects of oxidative damage, we should try to reduce what we can.
Keep in mind, though, even exercise increases free radical production because of the increased oxygen demand! Don't worry, I'm not going to recommend to stop training; free radicals will then be the last of your worries.
Reducing Free Radicals
The best way to reduce these is for folks to eat a wider variety of foods and try your best to live as clean as possible: don't smoke, don't overindulge in alcohol, stay away from second hand smoke as much as possible, etc. and, after learning about this study, maybe add some chokeberry juice to your routine.
Chokeberry Juice And Anthocyanins
Chokeberry juice was selected for this study because of its high concentration of anthocyanins. For those who are interested in defining that large word, anthocyanins are naturally occurring compounds that impart color to fruit, vegetables, and plants.
Derived from two Greek words meaning plant and blue, anthocyanins are the pigments that make blueberries blue, raspberries red, and are thought to play a major role in the high antioxidant activity levels observed in red and blue fruits (such as chokeberries) and vegetables.
Chockberries Early In The Season.
Anthocyanins are also largely responsible for the red coloring of buds and young shoots and the purple and purple-red colors of autumn leaves. Close to 300 anthocyanins have been discovered. Ok, let me slip my lab coat off again and talk about something people may care about-staying healthy and training harder.
The study population consisted of 19 males who were competitive rowers. For those of you who have never rowed, it is tough. It not only is hard on the 'ol ticker, but all out sprints really challenge the muscles too. The subjects were in a 1-month training camp between training and competition.
This was a double-blind, placebo controlled trial in which 10 subjects received the approximately 2 oz (1/4 of 1 cup) chokeberry juice and 9 received a placebo. The subjects received their respective drinks 3 times/day (so about 3/4 cup total for chokeberry juice and the placebo groups).
The goal with the placebo was to have the two drinks taste identical and look identical so the groups were not aware as to what they were consuming. If they did know this, it could bias the results.
At the beginning of the study, the athletes performed a 2000-m rowing exercise test as a control. The day after the test, the athletes were told to avoid physical exercise and then were instructed to perform another rowing exercise session. During these sessions, the initial workload was 40% of the maximal power achieved during the aforementioned 2000-m session.
The workload was subsequently increased every 3 minutes to 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90% of the maximal power (e.g., VERY tough routine). Each 3-minute session was followed by a 30 second rest.
Blood samples were taken to ascertain the ROS parameters and a number of other markers of muscle damage, such as creatine kinase, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase... sorry to bore you with the details.
The exercise prescription in this study was an anaerobic session, which is known to increase ROS. Moreover, all the markers of muscle damage listed above were significantly lower in the group consuming chokeberry juice vs. the control group taking a placebo.
In addition, creatine kinase, which if you recall was a marker of muscle damage, was significantly decreased in the group taking chokeberry juice.
Anthocyanins appear to be the important constituent in chokeberry juice responsible for improving the antioxidant defense system. Anthocyanins are actually in another class of something called flavonoids, which strengthens the fact that these are important components in the diet.
In fact, many studies have demonstrated that flavonoids are superior as antioxidants to the well known antioxidants, vitamins C, E and beta-carotene. This doesn't mean those two vitamins are unimportant, just make sure you are consuming adequate doses of all these.
The best food sources of flavonoids are black and green tea - so make sure you drink up. In fact, last week I discussed a study that demonstrated green tea may boost endurance capacity; the positive evidence just keeps on accumulating for this wonder beverage.
And finally the best way to boost your antioxidant intake is not through supplements, but rather through whole foods; get plenty of fruits and veggies, as well as a wide variety of other foods.
For those who may be interested, many health food stores carry chokeberry juice; I have yet to see it in the mainstream grocer, though. All dark juices (blueberry, pomegranate, cherry, etc) will most likely have similar positive effects, so those are worth a shot too. Try some as part of a post-workout drink.
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism The Influence of Chokeberry Juice Supplementation on the Reduction of Oxidative Stress Resulting from an Incremental Rowing Ergometer Exercise Lucja Pilaczynska-Szczesniak, A. Skarpanska-Steinborn, E. Deskur, P. Basta, and M. Horoszkiewicz-Hassan, 15(1), 2005