The Truth Behind Antioxidants & Exercise Induced Muscle Damage


Alyssa Bialowas

Elite athletes are prone to injury and muscle damage, especially those who compete in high contact sports such as rugby. To speed up recovery in these athletes the goal is to get them back training and on the field as quickly as possible. Previous research has looked at the effects of high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods on recovery kinetics, but has found conflicting results. While some research has found a positive effect of the consumption of cherries and berries high in polyphenols, others have not found such significant effects.

Polyphenols are compounds found in plants that help fight disease and benefit the body. Curcumin has a high polyphenol content, as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities, however has low bioavailability (it’s difficult to enter the circulation of the body and so doesn’t have a great active effect). Piperine, the active component in black pepper also has antioxidant properties, and has been shown to enhance the bioavailability in curcumin by 2000%. So, when combined together, do the effects of curcumin and piperine supplementation aid in recovery after exercise induced muscle damage?

Related Article: Anti-Inflammatory Foods in Your Diet (and What to Avoid)

The Study

The current study was a randomized cross-over design. On the exercise day, ten elite rugby players consumed either curcumin and piperine supplementation or placebo 48 hours before and following exercise-induced muscle damage. For the entirety of the study, participants in the experimental condition consumed 2g or curcumin and 20 mg of piperine 3 times per day. Participants were divided into 4 groups: 1) dominant leg and curcumin + piperine supplementation, 2) non-dominant leg + curcumin + piperine supplementation 3) dominant leg + placebo, 4) non-dominant leg + placebo.

The exercise inducing muscle damage task was comprised of 25 repetitions over 25 meters of one leg jumps on an 8% downhill slope. Each repetition was separated by 90 seconds. Participants were asked to cover the 25 meters as fast as possible and stop in a pre-defined zone of 3.5 meters at the end of the 25 meter slope.

Immediately after exercise, then at 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours post-exercise, the following were assessed: Concentric and isometric peak torque for the knee extensors, one leg 6 seconds spring performance on a non-motorized treadmill, counter movement jump performance, blood creatine kinase concentration and muscle soreness.

Related Article: Cross-Exercise: Which Training Program is Better?

The Results

The main result of the study showed that 24 hours after exercise, the recovery in sprint power output was moderately faster in the participants that consumed the curcumin and piperine supplementation. However, the supplementation did not have an effect on muscle soreness or blood concentration in creatine kinase.


Curcumin and piperine supplementation before and after exercise can aid some aspects of muscle damage, but not all. Further research should look at a larger sample size of athletes and a different exercised induce muscle damage task to discover if there are further effects of curcumin and piperine supplementation. 

Related Article: The Next Best Supplement for Exercise Performance

You Might Like:


The Truth About Red Meat Consumption

Over the last few decades, we have seen dietary guidelines change drastically in an attempt to better meet the health needs of the population. While many of these changes have been obvious (eat more vegetables,...
Brain health and nutrition

The Importance of Nutrition on Brain Health

What you put into your body is damn important. I mean, without providing your body with all nutrients it needs to thrive, you can expect to see declines in physical health, emotional wellbeing, and even...

How to Incorporate HIIT in Every Workout

Over the last few years, high-intensity exercise modalities have become super popular. Think about the rise of CrossFit or even the creation of Orange Theory. Both of these workouts are incredibly popular, and both incredibly...
Meditation in the outdoors

Meditation and Visualization for Athletes

Over the last few years, there has been a huge increase in the use of mediation and visualization across the globe.  We have recently realized that meditation can play a role in improving athletic performance....

The Best Way to Taper for Sports Performance

There is no doubt in my mind that most of you love training.  I completely understand because I am exactly the same. There is something seriously enjoyable about pushing your body to its limits on...


Delecroix, B., Abaidia, A.E., Leduc, C., Dawson, B., and Dupont, G. (2017). “Curcumin and Piperine Supplementation and Recovery Following Exercise Induced Muscle Damage: A Randomized Controlled Trial”. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 16, 147-153.

Young female athlete jogger resting by a lake

Are There Benefits to Working out on Cannabis?

Woman eating chocolate bar.

Does Dark Chocolate Aid In Muscle Recovery?

Person holding a rail and stretching on a bridge

Do We Really Need A Cool Down After Exercise?

Exercise and the Afterburn Effect

Exercise and the Afterburn Effect

How Core Strength Effects Athletic Performance

How Core Strength Effects Athletic Performance

Weight Training Techniques: Benefits of Unilateral Training

Weight Training Techniques: The Benefits of Unilateral Training

Improve Aerobic Capacity: Tips and Tricks

How to Improve Your Aerobic Capacity – Tips & Tricks

Exercising in the Heat

Exercising in the Heat

Glute Exercise

The Best Glute Exercises: How to fire your glutes!

Probiotics and Prebiotics

What Are Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Leave a Reply