First of all, what are polyphenols and why should you even care about them if you’re an athlete?
Well, let’s get into it.
Polyphenols are a type of molecule that are commonly found in several plants. They have a specific chemical structure that we won’t get into, but depending on the amount of polyphenol a certain plant contains, this can influence the taste and color of the fruit or vegetable that the plant produces.
The reason why polyphenols are beneficial for your health is that this type of molecule exhibits both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In other words, polyphenols help get rid of harmful free radical molecules in your body. Additionally, it can enhance vascular function via nitric oxide-mediated pathways.
How does this translate to better performance?
For athletes, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols helps to delay fatigue during exercise by removing supplemental reactive oxygen species in the body. Polyphenols are also beneficial for post exercise recovery because they can help to reduce inflammation and oxidative muscle damage.
Current research shows that supplementing with >1000mg of polyphenols per day for 3+ days before both before and after exercise can improve recovery.
How do I add polyphenols to my diet?
So, polyphenols are great, but where can you find them? A great source of polyphenols come from berries like cherries, blueberries, strawberries, in addition to other fruits like pomegranate and cocoa.
In order to hit the >1000mg of polyphenols target, this might look like 450g of blueberries, 120g of blackcurrants, or 300g of Montmorency cherries.
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- Bowtell, J., & Kelly, V. (2019). Fruit-Derived Polyphenol Supplementation for Athlete Recovery and Performance. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 49(Suppl 1), 3–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-0998-x