I consider myself a supplement nerd. I have been taking dietary supplements religiously for more than two decades. People laugh when they come to my home and see all the bottles and canisters lying around—I must take 75 pills a day along with powders of all kinds. My idea of fun is spending time in a health food store looking at all the cool products. I’m like a kid in a candy store.
Interestingly, I have a unique perspective. For more than three decades, I have raced more than 300 endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. Through it all, I have experienced the benefits of a wide range of innovative sports nutrition products.
So, when I hear of a compelling new sports nutrition ingredient, I am always very curious. What does it do? What are the benefits? Is it supported by legitimate science? Some of the following may not be necessarily new, but have lacked awareness and have caught my eye in recent months:
Citrulline Malate: Originally marketed as an "anti-fatigue" supplement. In fact, decades ago, citrulline malate was prescribed to treat both mental and physical fatigue in post-surgery patients. More recently, citrulline malate has become popular for its performance-boosting effects. The benefits are attributed to the synergistic combination of both L-citrulline and malate, which helps to increase rates of ATP during exercise, followed by increased rates of PCr (phosphocreatine) recovery after exercise.
In fact, research indicates that 8 grams of citrulline malate increased the number of repetitions performed during an upper body resistance training regimen and reduced soreness at 24 and 48 hours post-exercise (compared to a placebo). Recently, researchers from Mississippi State University found that 8 grams of citrulline malate significantly increased the number of lower body repetitions compared to a placebo group.
Curcumin: A naturally occurring chemical compound that is found in the spice turmeric. The two words are sometimes used interchangeably, but the technical difference between the two is that turmeric is the yellowish powder used to flavor foods, while curcumin is a chemical contained within turmeric. In Indian and Asian cultures, turmeric and curcumin have a long history of use as a traditional herbal medicine. Western medicine is beginning to study the potential of turmeric in treating diseases such as arthritis, cancer and diabetes.
However, some of the most fascinating curcumin research also dovetails with what I experience so much of: muscle soreness. A new, double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in March 2015 indicates curcumin can help reduce pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and aid muscle recovery in physically active people.
The study examined whether curcumin had an impact on "single-leg jump performance and DOMS following unaccustomed heavy exercise." Researchers gave 17 male volunteers 2.5 g of oral curcumin (or a placebo) twice daily two days before to three days after strenuous single-leg press exercise, separated by 14 days of rest. During this trial period, the researchers monitored post-exercise limb pain, muscle swelling and other indicators of muscle damage and inflammation. Data was collected at baseline, immediately after exercises, one day after exercises and two days after exercises.
The results indicated that aside from inducing moderate to large reductions in pain caused by single-leg squats, gluteal stretches and squat jumps, the curcumin supplements also caused small reductions in creatine kinase activity (increased amounts of creatine kinase in the bloodstream is associated with muscle damage). The researchers even found that curcumin improved the volunteers' single-leg jump performances due to its anti-inflammatory benefits. Further research is needed, but the results are compelling nonetheless.
Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine (GlycoCarn): Nitric oxide boosters are nothing new, but my personal experience with this supplement has been nothing short of profound. In fact, recent double-blind studies reveal that GlycoCarn is the only supplement proven to increase nitric oxide levels in the human bloodstream.
GlycoCarn consists of a molecular bonded form of propionyl-L-carnitine and one of the carnitine precursor amino acids, glycine. Two recent studies have demonstrated an increase in blood levels of nitric oxide with oral GlycoCarn intake, at a daily dosage of 4.5 g (Bloomer et al., 2007; in press). These findings agree with other recent work using propionyl-L-carnitine exclusively (Lofreddo et al., 2007), which demonstrated an increase in blood nitric oxide in response to 6 g daily of propionyl-L-carnitine given via intravenous infusion.
Compared with other forms of carnitine, GlycoCarn works as a nitric oxide booster, exhibiting a special affinity for muscle tissues, such as the heart. In addition, it helps boost nitric oxide health, acting as a powerful scavenger against superoxide radicals, and protects against lipid peroxidation.
Carnitine in general is known to be involved in fatty acid metabolism. GlycoCarn has not only been shown to result in increased nitric oxide, but deliver potent antioxidant properties as well. This ultimately leads to increased blood flow and enhanced ATP energy production.
Flavonoid Root: A breakthrough extract that significantly improves cardiovascular health. This extract is supported by new science that provides unmatched antioxidant properties and powerful cardiovascular health benefits.
Recently, the results from a double-blind, placebo controlled study were published in the scientific journal Food and Nutrition Research (April 2016).
The study examined the effect of a unique flavonoid root extract on the thickness of the artery wall using CIMT (carotid intima-media thickness) in individuals with hypercholesterolemia. CIMT is considered a strong indicator of overall cardiovascular and arterial health.
People with hypercholesterolemia, total cholesterol greater then 240 mg/do, were randomly allocated to two groups as follows: an experimental group that received 200 mg of the flavonoid root extract and a placebo group that did not receive any flavonoid root extract. The 110 participants were initially allocated to two groups; 94 ultimately completed the study. After one year, the study yielded the following results:
• In the experimental group the thickness of artery (CIMT) decreased from 0.92 mm to 0.84 mm. In the placebo group, CIMT increased from 0.85 to 0.88.
• In the experimental group, total cholesterol decreased from 284 to 262 mm/dL. In the placebo group total cholesterol decreased from 291 to 289 mm/dL
• In the experimental group, the LDL (bad) cholesterol decreased from 183 to 173 mm/dL. In the placebo group, the LDL (bad) cholesterol increased from 177 to 179.
• In the experimental group, systolic blood pressure decreased from 138 to 125 mmHg. In the placebo group, systolic blood pressure increased from 136 to 137.
• In the experimental group, diastolic blood pressure decreased from 92 to 84. In the placebo group, diastolic blood pressure increased from 89 to 90.
These results were extremely compelling. Following one year of flavonoid root extract consumption, mean CIMT, total cholesterol, LDL levels and blood pressure decreased. This suggests that this ingredient may attenuate the development of oxidation and of related cerebral vascular issues.
The natural products industry continues to innovate and bring compelling new sports products to the market. I will continue to sing the praises of the product development innovators and the retailers that offer products that contain these ingredients. All of the aforementioned ingredients are clinically validated showing efficacy and truly deliver. The only pressing question for retailers is how to create enough shelf space in their stores for all these great products. VR
Bendahan, D., Mattei, J. P., Ghattas, B., Confort-Gouny, S., Le Guern, M. E., & Cozzone, P. J. (2002). Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36(4), 282-289.
Pérez-Guisado, J., & Jakeman, P. M. (2010). Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1215-1222.
Wax, B., Kavazis, A. N., Weldon, K., & Sperlak, J. (2014). Effects of Supplemental Citrulline Malate Ingestion During Repeated Bouts of Lower-body Exercise in Advanced Weight Lifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research/National Strength & Conditioning Association, 29(3), 786-92.
Fogelman Y, Gaitini D, Carmeli E. Antiatherosclerotic effects of licorice extract supplementation on hypercholesterolemic patients: decreased CIMT, reduced plasma lipid levels, and decreased blood pressure. Food Nutr Res. 2016;60:30830-5
Bloomer RJ, Smith WA, Fisher-Wellman KH. Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine increases plasma nitrate/nitrite in resistance trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2007;4(1):22.
Bloomer RJ, Tschume LC, Smith WA: Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine modulates lipid peroxidation and nitric oxide in human subjects. Int J Vitam Nutr Res, In Press.
Loffredo L, Marcoccia A, Pignatelli P, Andreozzi P, Borgia MC, Cangemi R, Chiarotti F, Violi F: Oxidative-stress-mediated arterial dysfunction in patients with peripheral arterial disease. Eur Heart J 2007, 28(5): 608-612.
Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years and has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ marklbecker/posts/387591877933686#!/energyatlast. Follow Mark on Twitter at twitter.com/ #!/becker_mark. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.