In the popular press, grape extracts have been touted as miracle compounds that can do everything from cure cancer to reverse aging. These claims may be a little premature, but beneficial sub- stances within grapes have been found to provide a variety of benefits for overall health and wellness. Sports scientists are now starting to demonstrate that grape components can benefit physical performance and recovery, as well.
Grapes contain a multitude of beneficial sub- stances classified as polyphenols. One you may have heard a lot about is resveratrol. This phytochemical, found mainly in the skins and seeds of the grape, has been shown to help prevent certain types of cancer and heart disease, as well as extend lifespan, bolster muscle endurance and even help with fat loss. Polyphenols act as antioxidants. During exercise, free radical formation can result in excessive muscle damage that can impede performance and recovery. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals, which may help reduce muscle damage while maintaining strength. Grapes are considered to be one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants among all fruits and vegetables.
French researchers conducted a study in which 20 elite male athletes from various sports received a grape extract or a placebo every day for one month. Following the one-month treatment, each subject had a two-week break, and then received the alternative treatment for another month. During the entire study, all athletes continued with their normal intensive training routines. Several tests were conducted during each study period to measure changes in overall power, antioxidant status and muscle damage.
When subjects took the grape extract their antioxidant levels were much higher compared to when they received the placebo treatment. Muscle damage was also found to be significantly lower during the grape extract treatment. The improvements in antioxidant status and muscle damage didn’t translate into improved muscle power in all of the athletes tested, but a subgroup of handball players (10 of the 20 subjects) did gain increased overall power. The researchers also found that the subjects who experienced the least muscle damage due to grape supplementation had the greatest overall improvements in muscle power.
Take 200-500 milligrams of grape extract, or grape-seed extract (Vitis vinifera) standardized for at least 80% polyphenols, in the morning and about 30-60 minutes before workouts.