Athletes who want to improve their performance should try supplementing with saffron

Want better athletic performance? Researchers from the University of Mohaghegh Ardabili in Iran suggest supplementing with saffron. In their study, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, they found that saffron can boost athletic performance and recovery, after looking at its potential-enhancing effect on physical performance, stamina, and recovery.

For their study, the researchers recruited 28 nonactive and healthy male university students. Then, they divided them into two groups: a treatment group and a control group. The treatment group took 300 mg of dried saffron stigma daily for 10 days, while the control group received a placebo.

Saffron, which resembles thin, red threads, is a spice that originates from a flower called saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). Although widely used in cooking, this spice is also used for medicinal purposes. Its benefits range from moisturizing the skin to treating mild depression. Saffron is reported to contain more than 150 compounds that have medicinal properties, such as carotenoids. Studies have also shown that it acts as an antioxidant, fights inflammation, benefits the brain and nerves, and is good for the heart. (Related: Saffron: Most benefits and expensive spice on earth.)

The researchers measured the participants’ familiarization with the tests, anthropometric parameters, visual and audio reaction times, and the maximum isometric and isotonic forces on a leg press machine one day before and after the intervention period. Muscular strength, pulmonary function, and reaction time are important to athletic performance.

The study demonstrated that those who had saffron supplements for 10 days exhibited significant improvement in isometric and the isotonic forces, as well as faster visual and audio reaction times compared to those who took the placebo. The saffron supplementation also potentially contributed to the improvement of muscle blood perfusion and facilitation of oxygen transportation.

With these findings, the researchers concluded that 10 days of supplementation with saffron significantly improved athletic performance.

Supplements for post-workout recovery

Taking supplements for exercise and training recovery is also important. Recovery involves repairing muscle and tissue, eliminating waste products, and reducing inflammation. It also includes replenishing nutrients and energy stores needed for cellular activity and improving the communication pathways between the brain and the body. Here are some supplements beneficial for exercise and training recovery:

  • Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): BCAAs are widely known for enhancing muscle protein synthesis and preventing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). They are also great for renewing energy and helping in weight loss.
  • CoQ10: This antioxidant is particularly beneficial in avoiding muscle fatigue in both strength and endurance athletes. It can be taken any time throughout the day.
  • Curcumin: Curcumin, the potent anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, lessens pain and swelling. It can be taken orally or applied topically over sore muscles.
  • Glutamine: Glutamine, an amino acid, speeds up the recovery process. It works by enabling the muscles to take carbohydrates more readily after a workout. It also boosts growth hormone, which in turn, allows the body to create new muscle mass.
  • L-arginine: Another amino acid, arginine stimulates growth hormone, which helps in muscle growth, increased strength, and recovery. It can be taken as a capsule or a powder, which can be added to your protein shake.
  • Omega-3 fish oil: Fish oil supplements help fight and reduce inflammation. Fish oil is also vital for hormone synthesis and improves bone repair. At the same time, it reduces muscle soreness.
  • Protein: Protein provides the muscles the needed building blocks to build muscle and strength and prevent muscle wasting. Moreover, it keeps you satiated and increases metabolism post-workout. One of the most common protein supplements is whey protein, which is excellent for muscle synthesis and is highly absorbable. However, there are some people whose bodies cannot tolerate whey. As a replacement, you can consider a vegan protein with a rice base.

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