Daily supplements with extracts from French Maritime Pine bark may boost endurance and reduce cramping by controlling oxidative stress, according to a new study.
Data from 147 recreational athletes indicated that daily supplementation with Pycnogenol for eight weeks was associated with quicker two-mile run finish times, and increases in push-up and sit-up endurance of 25% and 15%, respectively.
Additional data from 54 triathletes indicated that a daily 150 mg dose of Pycnogenol for 30 days was associated with significantly increased speed and strength, and reduced muscular cramping.
“This study opens an interesting new application of supplementation with Pycnogenol that, with correct hydration, good training and nutritional attention may improve training and performances both in normal subjects and in semi-professional athletes performing at high levels in difficult, high-stress sports such as triathlon,” wrote the researchers in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness .
Scores of clinical trials
Pycnogenol – a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine – is included in more than 700 dietary supplements, cosmetic products and functional foods and beverages worldwide.
The ingredient has been the subject of scores of clinical studies suggesting benefits covering everything from cardiovascular, joint, cognitive and eye health to the relief of hay fever, PMS, tinnitus, hemorrhoidal pain and menopause symptoms.
The new study provides support for the potential benefits of the pine bark extract for sports nutrition applications. Led by Dr. Gianni Belcaro from the Chieti-Pescara University in Pescara, Italy, the researchers conducted a two-part study with 201 people aged between 32 and 36. For the first study, recreational athletes were randomly assigned to receive either 100mg per day of Pycnogenol or no supplement. After eight weeks all the participants were tested using the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which evaluates physical fitness levels through muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular performance.
Results for these participants indicated significant improvements for both men and women in both groups for 2-mile running times, but the Pycnogenol groups was found to perform statistically better than controls, said the researchers. Improvements were also observed for both groups for push-ups with the Pycnogenol groups again performing better. Two minute sit-up endurance was also significantly increased on the Pynogenol group by an average of 15%.
The second part of the study involved 54 male triathletes randomly assigned to 150 mg per day of Pycnogenol per day or no supplement. 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.
Results showed that participants in the Pycnogenol group shed significant time off their splits (from 1:40:24 to 1:29:44) and reduced oxidative stress levels.
“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.”
Source: The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness
Volume 53, Number 6, Pages 644-654
“Evaluation of the effects of supplementation with Pycnogenol on fitness in normal subjects with the Army Physical Fitness Test and in performances of athletes in the 100-minute triathlon”
Authors: G Vinciguerra, G. Belcaro, E. Bonanni, M.R. Cesarone, V. Rotondi, A. Ledda, M. Hosoi, M. Dugall, M. Cacchio, U. Cornelli