Cranberries might be what you need to improve your athletic performance.

Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal found the simple technique of adding cranberries to the diets of highly competitive runners was able to boost their performance.

Nutrition, Exercise

Competitive athletes are always looking for ways to improve their performance which is why Living Fuel's InSportRecovery sports drink is so valued by the ultra-competitive athletes who use it. But that's not the only way to improve as researchers at Concordia University in Montreal found the simple technique of adding cranberries to the diets of highly competitive runners was able to boost their performance.

Scientists worked with trained distance runners and found using a cranberry supplement for 28 days led to noticeable improvements in muscle fatigue and running performance in 1,500-meter time trials. Running speeds improved by 1.5 percent and the reoxygenation rates of the athletes was faster.

"When it comes to elite athletes, any advantage can make the difference between finishing fifth or on the podium," says Andreas Bergdahl, an associate professor in the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Applied Physiology and the paper's senior author.

The study participants included runners from Concordia's varsity track and field team as well as from two Montreal running clubs. All were performing at least five hours of endurance training a week.

The runners completed two time trials, the first of which was used as a baseline. They ran a 1,500-meter distance and also a 400-meter distance. Prior to the second set of runs the athletes were given a large dose of cranberry extract two hours before the trial.

All athletes were then instructed to take a small dose of cranberry extract for 28 days. Afterward they completed their third set of runs.

"We selected these distances to test the effects the cranberry extract had on different energy systems," says Francis Parenteau, a Ph.D. candidate and the paper's lead author. "The 400-meter is shorter and of higher intensity and involves the anaerobic system. The 1,500-meter uses the aerobic system but is shorter than what the athletes usually run. Since they do not train to run that distance, we were able to isolate training effects as a variable."

Scientists measured the post-exercise blood lactate of the runners and also measured the muscle oxygenation levels before, during and after their runs. That was in addition to tracking the times for the runs.

Researchers found the 28 days of cranberry extract consumption helped increase the speed in the 1,500-meter run, but not the 400 meter run. Conversely, lactate buildup was reduced after the 400-meter run, but not after the 1,500-meter run.

The cranberry extract led to better oxygen extraction by the muscle, improved lactate clearance and slower muscle deoxygenation.

Cranberries are a great source of polyphenols, a natural compound with antioxidant properties. They help protect the body from the damaging free radicals normally produced by strenuous exercise.

"The beauty of this is that it is all-natural," says Bergdahl. "It is an ergogenic aid, meaning that it is performance-enhancing, but it is not an anabolic steroid. Athletes can get this important boost in their performance just by consuming more cranberries."

Click here to read more in the journal Physical Activity and Nutrition.

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