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Enhance Athletic Performance by Decreasing Oxidative Stress

28 December 2018
Connie Packer

Ski Jump

Discussion of Salt Lake City hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics reminded me that many people are not just looking to nutrition and supplements to prevent disease, but also to maximize performance. Physical activity is good for health but intense prolonged physical activity, like athletes endure, can increase oxidative stress by increasing the production of free radicals in cell mitochondria. And the rise in core body temperature, when training in hot conditions, increases the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) in vessels. These oxidative compounds can wreak havoc on lipid and protein structures, adversely affect liver function, decrease physical performance, and increase muscle fatigue.

New studies, below, focus on coenzyme q10 (coq10 or ubiquinone) and turmeric (curcumin). Both supplements are known for reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. The first study looks at coq10 supplementation in elite swimmers. Coq10 is needed for mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and for the production of ATP. It is known as a scavenger of free radicals, and it helps regenerate the antioxidant vitamins C and E. The next two studies look at turmeric as a complementary treatment for osteoporosis and depression. While the prescription medication fights the condition head on, the turmeric is believed to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage that may be exacerbating the condition, improving the results of the treatment.

Coenzyme Q10 may decrease oxidative stress from athletic training. Effect of oral CoQ10 supplementation along with precooling strategy on cellular response to oxidative stress in elite swimmers. This study looked at 36 males, aged 16-19 years, on the Iranian national swimming team. During 14 days of intense training, participants were assigned to receive 300 mg CoQ10, CoQ10 with pre-cooling before trainings (submerged up to shoulders in a pool cooled to 18 C for 15 minutes), only pre-cooling before trainings, or a control group. Pre-cooling was assumed to help decrease core body temperature and exercise exhaustion but may also increase biochemical stressors. The nine measured compounds indicative of oxidative stress and muscle and liver damage were significantly lower in the supplementation group when compared to each of the other groups.

Turmeric Curcumin may support bone structure. Combination therapy of curcumin and alendronate modulates bone turnover markers and enhances bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Curcumin has been shown to produce beneficial changes in bone turnover and bone strength in addition to reducing inflammation and inhibiting osteoclast production and proliferation (osteoclasts break down bone). These researchers looked at 60 menopausal women with newly diagnosed osteoporosis. They were all given 1000-1500 mg calcium carbonate, and either alendronate (aka Fosamax) and 110 mg curcumin, alendronate, or calcium only (the control group) for 12 months. Blood and urine indicators of bone turnover and bone mineral density were measured before and after the intervention. After treatment, the markers indicative of bone turnover (BALP and CTx) increased in the control group, significantly decreased in the alendronate group, and decreased even more in the alendronate + curcumin group. The marker of bone formation (osteocalcin) decreased in the control group, significantly increased in the alendronate group, and increased even more in the alendronate + curcumin group. The bone mineral density in the lumbar spine (L1–L4), femoral neck, total hip, and total body significantly improved in the alendronate group and improved significantly more in the alendronate + curcumin group. The researchers stated that the addition of curcumin may increase the effects of the treatment while also decreasing the risk of side effects from the alendronate.

Turmeric Curcumin may support healthy mood. Add-on Treatment with Curcumin Has Antidepressive Effects in Thai Patients with Major Depression: Results of a Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. Inflammation and oxidative stress are believed to play a role in depression. This study found 65 adults receiving treatment for major depressive disorder and gave half of them 500-1500 mg curcumin for 12 weeks in addition to their regular medication. All participants completed depression rating questionnaires at baseline and after 2, 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks of treatment. Both groups experienced improvements in depression scores but the curcumin group experienced significantly greater improvement than the control group, and that improvement persisted 4 weeks after supplementation ended. The improvement was more pronounced in men than in women, which the researchers mentioned could be a topic of further investigation.

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