HOBOKEN, N.J.French maritime pine tree bark (as Pycnogenol from Horphag Research Inc.) improved performance and endurance while reducing cramping and soreness in exercisers, according to a new study (J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Dec;53(6):644-54).
The two-part study, conducted at the Chieti-Pescara University in Pescara, Italy, evaluated the effectiveness of Pycnogenol in improving training, exercise, recovery and oxidative stress in recreational athletes and triathletes. Part one of the study used the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) to assess improvement in physical fitness during an eight-week preparation and training program. Part two evaluated the effects of Pycnogenol supplementation in participants training for a triathlon.
Part one of the study used two groups made of both males and females recreational athletes, the control (73 participants) and the group using Pycnogenol (74 participants). The Pycnogenol group was given 100 mg/d of the supplement and saw a significant improvement in the two-mile running time and number of push-ups and sit-ups. Oxidative stress and training-induced muscular pain also decreased in the Pycnogenol group.
Part two of the study focused on a group of 54 male triathletes, with 32 participants using Pycnogenol (150 mg/d) and 22 participants in the control group, both completing four-week training plans. With training, the swimming, biking and running scores of both groups improved. The Pycnogenol group, however, saw more benefits compared to the control group. The total triathlon time for subjects in the Pycnogenol group was 89 minutes and 44 seconds, which the control group had a time of 96 minutes and five seconds. The participants using Pycnogenol had an average improved performance time of 10.8 minutes; the control group had an average improvement of 4.6 minutes. There was a significant decrease in cramps, running and post-running pain in the Pycnogenol group, though the controls saw no significant differences. The study stated there was a significant post-triathlon decrease of plasma free radicals (PFR) one hour after the triathlon ended, while PFR increased in controls. The difference in PFR results was interpreted as faster metabolic recovery for participants using Pycnogenol.
"This study provides evidence that daily supplementation of Pycnogenol offers a natural approach to help reduce post-workout muscular pain, increase levels of physical performance and get you training again sooner," said Gianni Belcaro, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher of the study. "Pycnogenol, along with good training and proper nutrition, may help to significantly improve physical fitness and reduce oxidative stress and muscular pain in both in those who exercise recreationally and triathletes."