Polyphenol Supplementation: Benefits for Exercise Performance or Oxidative Stress?

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Abstract

Supplement use among athletes is widespread, including non-traditional and biological compounds. Despite increasing research, a comprehensive and critical review on polyphenol supplementation and exercise is still lacking. This review is relevant for researchers directly involved in the topic, as well as those with a broad interest in athletic performance enhancement and sports nutrition. The purpose of this review is to present background information on groups of polyphenols and their derivatives because their differing chemical structures influence mechanisms of action; to discuss the potential of plant, fruit and vegetable-based biological supplements, high in polyphenol content, to affect exercise performance and biomarkers of oxidative stress and exercise-induced muscle damage; and to critically discuss the exercise studies and biomarkers used. Subjects in the studies reviewed were either sedentary, healthy individuals, or active, recreationally trained or well-trained athletes. Polyphenol supplementation in exercise studies included mainly extracts (multicomponent or purified), juices, infusions or an increased intake of polyphenol-rich foods. This review includes details of supplement doses and exercise test protocols. Many studies considered only the performance or one or two selected biomarkers of antioxidant capacity instead of a comprehensive choice of biomarkers to assess damage to lipids or proteins. Evidence is insufficient to make recommendations for or against the use of polyphenol supplementation (neither specific polyphenols nor specific doses) for either recreational, competitive or elite athletes. Polyphenols have multiple biological effects, and future exercise studies must be designed appropriately and specifically to determine physiological interactions between exercise and the selected supplement, rather than considering performance alone.

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