Hey Angels and Alphas,
Athletes are pretty motivated to examine their dieting and make necessary changes based on the various quests they have for performance enhancement. While this will often include weight-loss practices, sport foods, and supplements, there is a very valuable health-promoting and potentially ergogenic aid that’s always overlooked… flavonoids.
WHAT ARE FLAVONOIDS?
Flavonoids are essentially phytonutrients rich in antioxidants that are found in a variety of plant foods such as veggies, fruits, grains, wine, chocolate, tea, and more.
There are about six subgroups of the compounds that make up flavonoids. However, there are more than 6,000 currently identified flavonoids. These subgroups include:
You can see how this classification can easily get confusing as many of the compounds become lumped together interchangeably in most of the common nutrition advice you see out there.
Groups of flavonoids or individual flavonoids could occur in the same foods, such as flavan-3-ols and anthocyanins. Both of them naturally occur in strawberries, as well as in separate foods, and flavones are the only type you’ll usually find in peppermint.
When brought together, flavonoids work to improve cellular activity and reduce the damage from free-radical stressors. Just as each vitamin is responsible for some specific health-promoting bodily function, flavonoids each have their own distinct functions ranging from hormone balance to anti-inflammatory responses to cardiovascular health. This is another reason why athletes should not rely on limiting their intake of whole foods in favor of sports foods and supplements.
WHAT GIVES FLAVONOIDS THEIR EDGE?
Flavonoid-rich foods are an indispensable part of a health-promoting diet. And there might be some proof out there these compounds can provide athletes with a performance edge.
When your training is taken to the point that goes beyond typical physical activity and reaches a point of high exertion, sore muscles, short rest periods, and more, then there is a large chance of increased oxidative stress and inflammation spreading in the body.
Essentially reducing the ill effects of the exercise-induced inflammation is one of the goals for many competitive athletes out there. And there’s some evidence that flavonoids can be of potential benefit in certain instances. But more research is necessary to exactly pin down its application in real-life sport situations.
QUERCETIN FOR MORE POWER AND WEIGHT LOSS
Quercetin is one of the more well-studied flavonoids out there. It’s a compound found in a variety of plant foods such as apples, capers, nuts, apples, cherries, red wine, black tea, broccoli, beans, and leafy greens.
Since many foods tend to provide this natural nutrient, it’s likely that our daily diet should contain quercetin. However, the amount available in foods you eat may not be that effective in providing you with a performance edge. Dietary evaluations have concluded that the average person consumes about 40 milligrams a day, whereas most studies using the flavonoid require a dosage of 500mg or more.
To demonstrate its benefits, one study used a 500mg dosage and combined it with vitamin C on male athletes.
It showed an improved metabolic rate, total energy expenditure, and improved body composition. Most athletes would agree that lower bodyweight and learner body composition will lead to a competitive edge. While this study showed some positive outcomes for supplemental flavonoids, it’s pretty well known that people who eat a diet rich in plants are less likely to suffer from obesity.
FOOD SOURCES OF FLAVONOIDS
Most dietary flavonoids will be provided to you by foods rich in fiber. Athletes tend to avoid these to reduce gut distress, but certain foods such as dark chocolate and tart cherry could provide a very beneficial source of these nutrients.
Increasing your chocolate intake could help you, as an athlete, meet the high-energy demands while providing you with beneficial nutrients such as iron and flavonoids that would be usually limited in a performance diet. The flavonoids in dark chocolate could play a specific role in improving the availability of nitric oxide. This means a reduced oxygen cost of exercise.
This is the same action beets are so well known for. A study tested this on competitive male athletes and found that chronic dark chocolate intake provides improvements in VO2max.