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

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Resveratrol keeps older endurance athletes fitter

Exercise keeps you fit, but even exercise can't stop the fact that as we age our condition declines. Japanese researchers at the Kao Corporation discovered that resveratrol supplementation enhances the positive effect of exercise as the years go by. If the results of the Japanese animal study also apply to humans, then supplements containing substances like resveratrol will be of interest to athletes in the veteran age group.

A few months ago we wrote about a similar animal study by the same researchers. In that one the Japanese researchers tried out compounds present in green tea on aging senescence-accelerated prone mice [SAMP]. The researchers discovered that training delayed the decline in condition as a result of aging and that green tea supplements reinforced the positive effect of training.

In the study that this article is about the researchers examined the effect of resveratrol. They got SAMP mice to run for thirty minutes three times a week at a speed of 15 metres per minute. Some of the mice were given resveratrol in their food.

One control group of SAMP mice didn't run and weren't given resveratrol. The second control group consisted of SAMR mice that age more or less normally [to put it briefly].

The researchers got the SAMP mice to run each week until the point of exhaustion. The first figure below shows that the addition of resveratrol to the mice's feed kept up their endurance capacity. The endurance capacity of the SAMP mice that only had to run but got no resveratrol went down.

The second figure below shows that resveratrol prevented a decline in muscle power.

[Here] you can see that resveratrol was also capable of inhibiting the decline in muscle mass in the SAMP muscles, even though the effect wasn't statistically significant. Resveratrol also inhibited the increase in fat mass, and that effect was statistically significant.

Sprint faster with betaine

Sprint faster with betaine

Sprint faster with betaine

Resveratrol prevented a decrease in the body's oxygen consumption and also kept up the body's ability to burn fats, as the two graphs above show. The researchers discovered that resveratrol maintained the level of activity of PGC-1alpha and PGC-1-beta in the muscle cells. These are molecular 'switches' that prompt the cells to make mitochondria, the cellular power stations, which convert nutrients such as fatty acids into energy.

Resveratrol also activated GLUT-4, a molecule that muscle cells use to absorb glucose molecules.

All in all it looks as though resveratrol is an AMPK activator.

"Intake of resveratrol combined with habitual exercise is beneficial for suppressing the aging-related decline in physical performance, and these effects might be due, at least in part, to improved energy metabolism in skeletal muscle", the researchers conclude. "These results indicate that resveratrol might be useful for attenuating the decline in physical function during aging."

If you convert the resveratrol dose the Japanese used for the mice to a dose suitable for humans it works out at more than one gram per day. There are no doubt people who use this level, but we think it's on the high side. We are more in favour of a combination of several AMPK activators in modest doses: for example resveratrol and phenols found in tea.

Biogerontology. 2009 Aug; 10(4): 423-34.

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