New research published in the December 2013 issue of The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness shows the effectiveness of a natural supplement in improving overall fitness performance levels and recovery. A clinical trial found that Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-ol), an antioxidant from French maritime pine tree bark, is effective in improving performance and endurance and reducing muscle cramping and soreness by controlling oxidative stress—an imbalance between antioxidants and pro-oxidants in favor of the latter that can hinder the body’s ability to repair muscle damage.
“Both recreational and serious athletes feel the effects of muscle fatigue, cramping and soreness from oxidative stress—these factors can impact fitness performance and recovery. Those starting a fitness program, perhaps as part of a New Year resolution to get in shape, may experience pain or soreness that keeps them from getting into their new routine. The findings in this study show that supplementation with Pycnogenol can encourage performance, boost recovery and help with achieving desired fitness results,” said Steven Lamm M.D. expert and practitioner in health and nutritional medicine.
The Pycnogenol study was based on the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) which evaluates physical fitness levels through muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular performance. Basic metrics of the APFT were applied in this research, including the number of sit-ups and push-ups a participant can complete in two minutes and the time it takes to run two miles.
Conducted in two parts at the Chieti-Pescara University in Pescara, Italy, the study followed 201 subjects ages 32 to 36 years old, who were each tested using either APFT standards or tracked while completing an average 100-minute triathlon.
Each of the clinical trials was divided into two groups: one group of participants that supplemented their daily routine with Pycnogenol and one group that did not. The results of both distinct trials found over four to eight weeks of daily supplementation with Pycnogenol, the participants significantly increased their level of physical fitness and endurance and also reduced training-induced muscular pain and oxidative stress.
Part One of the study consisted of 147 recreational athletes. Each of the 74 participants in the Pycnogenol group (38 males; 36 females) incorporated 100 mg of Pycnogenol into their daily routine; the remaining 73 (36 males; 37 females) did not. All participants were tested on the APFT metrics. Those in the Pycnogenol group showed remarkable improvements in all areas within eight weeks, including:
- Two mile run finish time significantly decreased by an average of nearly two minutes
- Two minute push-up endurance significantly increased an average of 25 percent
- Two minute sit-up endurance significantly increased an average of 15 percent
Part Two of the study examined an even higher level of fitness, testing 54 male triathletes. The Pycnogenol group included 32 participants who incorporated 150 mg of Pycnogenol into their daily routine; the control group was comprised of 22 who did not. Participants were tracked over four weeks and evaluated by an average 100-minute triathlon consisting of a .47 mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and 5k run. Those participants who supplemented with Pycnogenol shed significant time off their splits and reduced oxidative stress levels. Those who supplemented their diet and exercise routine with daily use of Pycnogenol for 30 days:
- Significantly increased speed and strength (100 minute triathlon time: 1:40:24 to 1:29:44)
- Significantly reduced muscular cramping
- Controlled oxidative stress
Study participants were followed between four and eight weeks. Subjects tested in Part One of the study completed the APFT five times within one week and subjects in Part Two completed the triathlon 10 times within 30 days. Throughout the study, participants completed routine blood tests to exclude any risked condition and were evaluated on their level of oxidative stress. At no time was the participant’s activity or working conditions changed, limited or altered.
“This study provides evidence that daily supplementation of Pycnogenol offers a natural approach to help reduce post-workout muscular pain, increase levels of physical performance and get you training again sooner,” said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, lead researcher of the study. “Pycnogenol, along with good training and proper nutrition, may help to significantly improve physical fitness and reduce oxidative stress and muscular pain in both in those who exercise recreationally and triathletes.”
This new research adds to the catalog of sports nutrition research on Pycnogenol and reinforces previous findings that the natural extract helps to strengthen blood vessels, alleviate muscular pain and enhance sports endurance.