I have been testing CurraNZ®: New Zealand Blackcurrant Extract Capsules – for improved muscle recovery. I am a born cynic, which makes me a good person to test a product. While I have not been part of a scientific / clinical trial and, therefore, it is difficult to compare one exercise session with another and with or without the capsules, I have been impressed by what I presume are the effects of the blackcurrant extract. Let me explain further.
When we exercise, especially when we exercise and stress our muscles, such as doing resistance training, running hard or hiking up hills, we would expect to experience soreness afterwards.
In medical terms, exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) usually involves two phases of recovery, with a disruption to muscle fibres followed by a rise in inflammation, swelling and oxidative stress.
It’a the secondary events that lead to additional tissue damage and the release of toxic by-products, which results in impaired muscle function and pain, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
I usually suffer DOMS two days after hard exercise – and the effects of DOMS appear to be worse as I get older.
But why blackcurrant extracts?
It’s claimed that taking anthocyanin-rich blackcurrant before exercise primes muscle tissue to cope with the inevitable increase in oxidative stress of hard or unfamiliar exercise, while continued supplementation in the recovery period may help to prevent secondary damage.
In addition, blackcurrant consumption is thought to reduce the release of creatine kinase (a protein that leaks out of damaged muscle tissue into the circulation), which again protects the muscles from secondary tissue damage.
Other extracts, such as those from beetroot, blueberries, tart cherries and pomegranate are also popular for aiding post-exercise recovery in active people, however they have been shown to have no effect on creatine kinase, a common measure to assess EIMD.
The science and evidence
There appear to be plenty of studies that show the benefits of blackcurrant supplements. One recent study using New Zealand blackcurrant supplement – CurraNZ® – is very persuasive.
A study at the University of Surrey found CurraNZ® can reduce muscle soreness by half in recreational exercisers undertaking strenuous exercise.
The study was performed in 27 men and women who were unaccustomed to exercise involving strength training to build muscle.
The same study’s clinical data demonstrated three-times faster recovery of muscle strength and reduced muscle soreness.
In summary, the clinical findings of the study, where respondents were supplemented with 300mg (one capsule) of CurraNZ® blackcurrant extract, found:
- Three-times faster recovery of muscle function over a 96-hour period. Blackcurrant participants regained muscle strength within 24 hours, while the placebo group recovered in 72 hours.
- 47% and 49% less muscle soreness at 24 and 48 hours, compared to the placebo group.
- 84% less muscle tissue damage at 96 hours, compared to the placebo group.
The company also has some impressive ambassadors, including ultra runner Jo Zakrzewski.
Best effects of CurraNz blackcurrant capsules
The best way to take the tablets is two hours before starting exercise. If you are under 75kg, take one capsule 2 hours before exercise. If you are over 75kg, take 2 capsules 2 hours before. This gives optimal energy and recovery benefits.
It may take more than one dose before it kicks in but it shouldn’t be more than three doses. You can take the product 30 to 60 minutes prior to exercise but the energy benefits don’t take effect until the two-hour mark.
CurraNZ is said too have a vasodilatory effect and improves blood flow by up to 35% (a later study showed a 45% increase), helping to improve oxygenation to the muscles and improving performance.
I was told that I wouldn’t notice much difference if I did just light exercise, because the best effects are with moderate to heavy exercise (where you would normally feel sore or stiff muscles the next day.
You can take a capsule on the recovery days as well.
On test: CurraNz blackcurrant capsules
At first, when taking the CurraNz blackcurrant capsules, I was sceptical. And, at first, I didn’t notice any major difference in my recovery. But I think this was probably because I wasn’t participating in exercise that was outside my normal activity.
I run a lot and every week I do a hill reps session with my local club. Over time, my body has adapted to the forces of this form of exercise and so even when taking the capsules I didn’t feel any noticeable speedier recovery.
It was only when I did exercise that was outwith my normal sphere that I started to experience a noticeable quicker recovery. I also upped the dose of the capsules from one to two before exercise.
When I ran 13 miles – the furthest I had run for months – I had no ill effects the following day. In fact, I walked a mountain solo the next day and I was surprised by how good my legs felt. I might normally expect to have DOMS, but my legs seemed to be remarkably fine.
I confess that the 13 miles was at a relaxed and easy pace but I was still on my feet for much longer than normal and a lot of the running was on tarmac, which would usually cause greater wear and tear on my muscles.
The following week, I ran most days and also did a resistance training session. My legs continued to feel fairly fresh. Some six days after the 13-mile run, I ran another nine miles on Christmas Eve. Again, the pace was relaxed and it was a flat route but I would still have expected some soreness afterwards. However, my legs seemed to be recover quickly.
Four days of mountain walking
Then came the best test of all: For four days in a row, I hiked mountains.
- Christmas Day: The Munro: Ben Wyvis
- Boxing Day: The Corbett: Beinn a’ Bha’ach Àrd
- December 27: The Corbett: Beinn a’ Chaisteil
- December 28: The Corbett: Beinn Damh.
Each day I expected to wake up with sore legs. Every day I woke up with legs that seemed amazingly fine. There was some accumulated light fatigue but it was nowhere near as much as I would normally expect.
Now, there may have been other reasons for a good recovery, such as consistent hill running training over this year, or mountain hikes that were not ridiculously long or tough.
But, even so, I felt like I bounced back each day with remarkable ease.
Then next test came two days later. I had a day of doing very little and then I met a friend for a couple of Corbetts. I had also run out of the CurraNz blackcurrant capsules. That day my legs felt very fatigued. I seemed sluggish and heavy with sore muscles.
Then, a couple of days later again, I walked another Corbett. My legs felt okay but not as good as they had during the Christmas period of walking. I had not taken any CurraNz blackcurrant capsules and I wondered if this was making a difference.
Of course, it may well have been the DOMS finally catching up with me, or a mountain walk too far for me that week. I am not ruling out the psychological effects of imagining you are taking a “magic pill” – and then not having the magic pill.
However, I found myself wishing I still had the capsules so I could keep going day after day without feeling my usual accumulated muscle fatigue.
As I have said already, it’s difficult to know if the CurraNz blackcurrant capsules make a significant difference, or to what extent my muscle recovery is due to general fitness. I was not part of a clinical trial but merely assessing the capsules according to my own scale of perceived muscle recovery improvement.
I rarely believe or trust in the benefits of supplements in tablet form. However, I am sufficiently impressed by the CurraNz blackcurrant capsules to want to order more. They are not cheap: One-time purchase: £23.99; Subscribe & Save (10%): £21.59, either.
However, I really did feel like my muscles recovered much quicker than normal and I can see that by using them when participating in exercise that is outwith my normal routine, I could well reap the benefits.
I am told there are other health benefits when taking blackcurrant extract, including increased fat burn and reduced menopause issues, and these are areas I plan to explore further.
Find out more about CurraNz blackcurrant capsules.
• I received 30 capsules in return for an honest review.