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Doping has wrecked the reputations of several sports along with many athletes. Once again nature provides a solution - this time to boost athletic performance.
Doping has been rampant among world-class athletes in the past couple of decades. It has nearly destroyed competitive bicycle racing, along with track and field and other competitive sports. As fans have grown leery of oddly bulked-up torsos, once again nature provides a better solution.
A savvy athletic trainer who does a little research will find a treasure of natural herbs that can help boost athletic performance, as well as immunity.
Many of these have been tested among athletic teams with great success.
Pycnogenol is somewhat of a new entry into the world of athletic performance. Most of the research to date on Pycnogenol has focused on a range of medical conditions. Now we find its ability to heal can also be used to increase athletic performance.
Pycnogenol found to boost athletic performance
The extract from the bark of pine trees – notably the patented extract from the French maritime pine tree developed by the European company, Horphag Research – has been put to the test once again with great results.
Researchers from Italy's Chieti‑Pescara University conducted their study using two types of athletic performances to study the effects of the herbal extract upon athletic performance.
The first part of the study utilized a fitness protocol called the Army Physical Fitness Test. This test for fitness is used by the U.S. Army and other armies in the world. The primary exercises in the test include push ups, sit ups and a two mile run. The fitness test consists of doing as many sit ups as possible within two minutes. And as many push ups as possible within two minutes.
The researchers divided 147 men and women into two groups – 74 and 73. Both groups received the same general fitness training over a period of eight weeks. But one group was given 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol per day in addition to their training.
Those who took the Pycnogenol improved in their two-mile running times significantly more than the control group. The Pycnogenol group also improved in the number of push-ups and sit-ups – again significantly better than in the control group.
The researchers also tested the athletes' oxidative stress levels with exercise, and found that oxidative stress levels were significantly lower in the Pycnogenol group.
The ultimate test: The triathlon
In the second part of the study, the researchers tested 54 men –with an average age of 38 – as they trained for a triathlon during four weeks. Of these, 32 were given 150 milligrams of Pycnogenol per day in addition to their training.
During the four-week period, both groups had improved times in all three events of the triathlon - swimming, biking and running. However, the Pycnogenol group had significantly greater improvements than the control group.
For the final triathlon, the average total completion time was 89 minutes 44 seconds among the Pycnogenol group. Among the control group, the average triathlon time was 96 minutes and 5 seconds.
The control group improved their times in the triathlon by an average of 4.6 minutes. But the Pycnogenol group experienced an average improvement of 10.8 minutes. This means their time improvement was more than double the improvement of the control athletes.
Those athletes in the Pycnogenol group experienced significantly fewer cramps and running pain during and after the event, but this was not that different from the results of the control group.
However, the Pycnogenol athletes experienced significantly faster recovery times following the triathlon events compared to the control group. Their faster metabolic recovery was coupled with reduced levels of oxidative stress among the Pycnogenol group.
In their conclusion the researchers affirmed the potential of the application of Pycnogenol among everyday athletes and world-class athletes alike:
"This study opens an interesting new application of the natural supplementation with Pycnogenol that, with proper hydration, good training and nutritional attention may improve training and performances both in normal subjects and in semi-professional athletes performing at high levels in difficult, high-stress sports such as the triathlon."
The bottom line is that pine tree bark is more than a natural remedy for a host of ailments. It also boosts athletic performance.
Not sure whether it helps with my surfing skills, but I still take it daily, and I think at least I get more waves.
Vinciguerra G, Belcaro G, Bonanni E, Cesarone MR, Rotondi V, Ledda A, Hosoi M, Dugall M, Cacchio M, Cornelli U. Evaluation of the effects of supplementation with Pycnogenol® on fitness in normal subjects with the Army Physical Fitness Test and in performances of athletes in the 100-minute triathlon. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Dec;53(6):644-54.