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Improve Your Workouts with Curcumin

Most people are aware of the effect of curcumin, the active compound of turmeric, on pain relief. As a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, curcumin works through many pathways in the body to stop the feelings of pain, the muscle and joint damage that inflammation and oxidative stress can create.

One recent review found that for individuals with exercise routines or who are actively involved with sports, curcumin is an excellent addition to a daily regimen to help muscles heal faster, improve overall performance, and address the other physical and psychological aspects of training.

Another review reported similar findings for curcumin, showing that individuals taking the herbal extract before and after exercise improved performance and reduced muscle damage.

The biggest challenge to curcumin isn’t necessarily the dosage; researchers report that high levels aren’t really a problem. The important hurdle is how well the curcumin in question is readily absorbed. That’s why it may be wise to seek out a supplemental curcumin that has been combined with turmeric essential oil for up to 700 percent enhanced absorption compared to standard forms.


Suhett LG, de Miranda Monteiro Santos R, Silveira BKS, Leal ACG, de Brito ADM, de Novaes JF, Lucia CMD. Effects of curcumin supplementation on sport and physical exercise: a systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(6):946-958. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1749025. Epub 2020 Apr 13. PMID: 32282223.

Curcumin is the main phenolic compound in turmeric. It has been investigated recently due to its numerous medicinal properties and health benefits. However, few studies assessed the effects of curcumin supplementation on physical activity practice. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to assess the available evidences with human beings about the potential effects of curcumin supplementation on sport and physical exercise. This systematic review was conducted within the period from January to February, 2019, following the recommendations of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyzes (PRISMA) guidelines. The LILACS, Medline, SciELO and PubMed databases were used for the search, with no publication date limit. The following terms, with the respective Boolean operators, were searched: "curcumin" AND sports; "curcumin" AND exercise; curcumin AND "aerobic exercise"; "curcumin" AND "resistance exercise"; "curcumin" AND "endurance exercise"; "curcumin" AND "strength exercise". Eleven papers were selected for this review. Most of the studies displayed positive effects of the curcumin supplementation for athletes and physical exercise practitioners, and no side effects were reported. Participants supplemented with curcumin displayed reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, decreased pain and muscle damage, superior recovery and muscle performance, better psychological and physiological responses (thermal and cardiovascular) during training and improved gastrointestinal function. Curcumin supplementation appears to be safe and beneficial for sport and physical exercise in human beings.

Fernández-Lázaro D, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Seco Calvo J, Córdova Martínez A, Caballero García A, Fernandez-Lazaro CI. Modulation of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage, Inflammation, and Oxidative Markers by Curcumin Supplementation in a Physically Active Population: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 15;12(2):501. doi: 10.3390/nu12020501. PMID: 32075287; PMCID: PMC7071279.

Physical activity, particularly high-intensity eccentric muscle contractions, produces exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). The breakdown of muscle fibers and the consequent inflammatory responses derived from EIMD affect exercise performance. Curcumin, a natural polyphenol extracted from turmeric, has been shown to have mainly antioxidant and also anti-inflammatory properties. This effect of curcumin could improve EIMD and exercise performance. The main objective of this systematic review was to critically evaluate the effectiveness of curcumin supplementation on EIMD and inflammatory and oxidative markers in a physically active population. A structured search was carried out following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines in the databases SCOPUS, Web of Science (WOS), and Medline (PubMed) from inception to October 2019. The search included original articles with randomized controlled crossover or parallel design in which the intake of curcumin administered before and/or after exercise was compared with an identical placebo situation. No filters were applied to the type of physical exercise performed, the sex or the age of the participants. Of the 301 articles identified in the search, 11 met the established criteria and were included in this systematic review. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed using the McMaster Critical Review Form. The use of curcumin reduces the subjective perception of the intensity of muscle pain; reduces muscle damage through the decrease of creatine kinase (CK); increases muscle performance; has an anti-inflammatory effect by modulating the pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-8; and may have a slight antioxidant effect. In summary, the administration of curcumin at a dose between 150-1500 mg/day before and during exercise, and up until 72 h' post-exercise, improved performance by reducing EIMD and modulating the inflammation caused by physical activity. In addition, humans appear to be able to tolerate high doses of curcumin without significant side-effects.

Here is the link to the complete article: Modulation of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage, Inflammation, and Oxidative Markers by Curcumin Supplementation in a Physically Active Population: A Systematic Review

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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