For some time now it has been known that blueberries contain powerful antioxidants that yield numerous health benefits. Not only are blueberries a great source of pre-workout fuel, but research published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition indicates that blueberries may significantly reduce the oxidative stress on muscle fibers caused by strenuous or excessive exercise as well as protect from disease. Posing such possible benefits as cholesterol reduction, protection from various forms of cancer, and protection from neurodegenerative diseases is just a few of the reasons why one should include blueberries in their diet (1).
This particular study used a strand of blueberries from New Zealand blended in a smoothie served to 10 female participants in their early twenties at 5 and 10 hours prior to a high-volume leg-extension based session that involved 3 sets of 100 reps! They again consumed the blueberry smoothie 12 and 36 hours post-quadricep annihilation. Blood work and subjective measures were taken several times over the course of the next 60 hours.
The same subjects repeated this protocol with a placebo fruit smoothie that was similar in antioxidant makeup but not the same as the blueberries one month later. The end result is promising with some slight advantages leaning toward the blueberry smoothie trial. The blueberry extract provided the highest amount of protection for the muscle fibers that the researchers believe could be stemmed from certain compounds found within the blueberries.
Subjective measures of muscle soreness weren’t very different between groups. However, peak performance of the quadricep muscles returned more quickly along with repair and recovery in the blueberry smoothie group when compared with the placebo group. Although the bioavailability and the recommended dosage of blueberries is uncertain, researchers relate this finding due to the rich content of polyphenols: potent antioxidants that include phenolic acids, tannins, flavonols, and anthocyanins.
Worth noting, the subjects consumed ~2.2 lbs of blueberries during this intervention which may not be realistic for most. Also, this is one of many strands of blueberries found in the world so others may very in antioxidant content. The subjects did follow an ad libitum diet with a list of foods & beverages that were not suggested during the study due to their high antioxidant content. If subjects followed a diet sufficient in protein intake, this could likely have an effect on muscle repair and recovery as well.
Taking this strategy into account should provide some insight on one way to give your training session a boost by incorporating blueberries or other fruits in the form of a smoothie prior to your training session. The addition of whole foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants could be a simple strategy to aid in your sports performance efforts but also contribute to a healthful diet.
So how much carbohydrate should you consume prior to your next run or training session? Use the table below to help you make that decision. Keep in mind that the type of exercise, duration, and intensity will largely effect how much carbohydrate you should consume:
|Type/Intensity/Duration of exercise||Amount of Carbohydrate (CHO)|
|Low-intensity; skill based or strength/resistance exercise||3-5 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight|
|Moderate intensity endurance exercise for <1 hr per day||5-7 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight|
|Moderate-to-high intensity endurance exercise for 1-3 hr per day||6-10 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight|
|Moderate-to-high intensity endurance exercise for > 3 hr per day||8-12 grams of CHO per kilogram of body weight|
Check out your local wholesale store like Costco or Sam’s to get the best deal on a big bag of mixed fruits for smoothies. Occasionally, I will blend one of those mixed berry combinations along with some ergogenic supplements such as:
- Whey Protein OR EAAs (Essential Amino Acids) depending on what flavor of protein powder I have at the time. Some flavors taste better with berries than others.
- Any pre-workout formula containing 6g-8g of citrulline malate, 1.6g-3.2g of beta-alanine for that extra boost in my endurance and stamina during bouts of exercise that require prolonged effort.
- Caffeine in the range of 150mg-300mg (aim for 1mg-3mg per kg of bodyweight to boost performance) pending the time of the day because caffeine can remain active in your bloodstream for ~4-6 hours for most individuals
Again, adjust the supplements and carbohydrate amount to your personal preferences and make sure to clear it with a medical professional that is highly versed with sports supplements. The aforementioned concoction is what I like to do and may not be suitable for others.
Also, for full transparency, the I make a very small commission if you purchase through the links listed above. If you support my work and small business, make sure to use those as you make your buying decision : )
- McLeay, Yanita, Barnes, Matthew J., Mundel, Toby, Hurst, Suzanne, M., Hurst, Roger, D., Stannard, Stephen, R. Effect of New Zealand blueberry consumption on recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2012, 9: 19 (7 May 2012).
- Howard LR, Clark JR, Brownmiller C. Antioxidant capacity and phenolic content in blueberries as affected by genotype and growing season. J Sci Food Agric 2003; 83 (12) :1238-47.