Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Endurance athletes perform better if they eat almonds instead of cookies

Endurance athletes perform better if they ban cookies and other starch and sugar-loaded foods from their diet, and replace them with almonds. A human study, involving eight cyclists and two triathletes, that Chinese researchers published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests this.


Almonds contain mono-unsaturated fat and compared with other nuts lots of protein. And the protein contains relatively large amounts of the amino acid L-arginine. In addition, almonds contain phenols such as isorhamnetin-3-O-rutinoside. Isorhamnetin resembles quercetin and is synthesised in the body from quercetin.

The 3-O-rutinoside group is also found in the quercetin-based rutin molecule. As quercetin in the body is converted into isorhamnetin, rutin is probably converted into isorhmnetin-3-O-rutinoside. But this substance is also contained, readymade, in almonds.

Endurance athletes perform better if they eat almonds instead of cookies

Nutrition for athletes
So what effect do almonds have on athletes? This is the question that researchers at the National Institute of Sports Medicine in Beijing wanted to answer. They conducted an experiment in which they gave athletes 75 g almonds [3 handfuls] every day for four weeks [ALM]. On another occasion the researchers gave the same subjects cookies containing the same amount of kilocalories [COK].

After the subjects had eaten almonds or cookies for four weeks, the researchers got them to first cycle for just under two hours at 50-60 percent of their VO2 max. After a short rest the athletes then had to cycle as far as they could in a timed ride of 20 minutes [TT]. When the subjects had eaten almonds they could cycle a significantly greater distance than when they had eaten cookies.

BL = performance before the experiment started.

Endurance athletes perform better if they eat almonds instead of cookies

During the timed ride the subjects used less oxygen and burned more carbohydrates when they had eaten almonds, as the figure below shows.

Endurance athletes perform better if they eat almonds instead of cookies

The researchers suspect that the combination of L-arginine [the athletes consumed 2 g a day more L-arginine than normal when they ate almonds] and phenols in almonds contributed to the improvement in performance that was measured. This combination boosts the concentration of nitrogen monoxide in the muscle tissue of the athletes, the Chinese think. As a result the athletes were able to perform intensive exercise, during which they burned carbohydrates, for longer.

The Almond Board of California funded the research.

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 May 11;11:18.

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