During the Breck Epic this year, I added some antioxidant “recovery” products to my usual agenda of post-ride Hammer Recoverite and whey protein drink nightcap.
With 240+ miles and 40,000 feet of elevation gain across six days of four- to six hours in the saddle, I knew I’d need a little something extra to keep from completely falling apart. Well, physically anyway…I pretty much fell apart mentally everyday, cursing Mike McCormack, the elevation and my sissy legs. Oh, and Rich Dillen.
To my surprise, I wasn’t sore on any day or the days after the event. Sure I stretched and took my recovery drinks, but I do those after most rides and still occasionally get sore the next day on longer, harder workouts. Other than sitting in the ice cold stream for five minutes on most days, I didn’t change much else, and I even forgot my Stick massage roller. So, I credit the lack of muscle malaise to these two products: Hammer Nutrition’s Super Antioxidant and PomX’s Antioxidant Recovery.
Neither are true “recovery” products in the sense that they don’t have any protein to rebuild your muscles. Rather, they focus on defeating oxidative damage, reducing inflammation and preventing muscle soreness. See how after the break…
First, a primer: Anytime you do anything that burns calories – like, you know, existing – you’re creating free radicals. These substances float around and bind to your cells and oxidize them, which damages their structure and prevents them from acting normally. Your body has natural defense mechanisms, but when you introduce hours of hard exercise and the daily stress of work, life and family (ex: why can’t my kids stop losing my iPhone so I can play Angry Birds check my d&*n email!), and you can easily overwhelm your body’s coping mechanisms. Add to that our highly processed, nutritionally deficient Westernized diet and you likely aren’t getting all the goodness you need from food to maintain optimal health.
What’s one to do? Supplement.
HAMMER NUTRITION SUPER ANTIOXIDANT:
Hammer’s Super Antioxidant combines Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), Grape Seed Extract, L-Glutathione, Gingko Biloba, Gotu Kola and Vinpocetine to attack a wide spectrum oxidative substances. These work on different types of free radicals and each claims to offer side benefits that see pretty good. Here are the descriptions directly from Hammer’s website:
Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) is an enzyme and one of the powerful endogenous (that which occurs naturally in the body) antioxidants. It is responsible for neutralizing the most common free radical known as superoxide. It also aids the body’s utilization of the minerals copper, zinc, and manganese. The enteric-coated form in Super Antioxidant, which allows the nutrient to pass intake through the stomach acid to be absorbed in the small intestines, is an easy way to supplement this vital antioxidant.
Grape Seed Extract (100mg) is high in a substance called OPC, a flavinoid that is believed to be several times more potent than even Vitamin C and E. OPCs are responsible for neutralizing three types of free radicals. In addition, the OPCs in Grade Seed Extract help strengthen and repair connective tissue and are excellent anti-inflammatories.
L-Glutathione (100mg) is a protein that is produced in the liver from three specific amino acids. Along with the mineral selenium, it forms the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which, along with SOD, is one of the body’s endogenous antioxidants, and perhaps the most important one of all. Glutathione is also part of another enzyme, which has liver protecting qualities. It protects individual cells as well as the tissues of nearly the entire body and is an important nutrient in helping with the prevention of cancer, particularly liver cancer.
Ginkgo Biloba (50mg) is an herb best known for its ability to enhance circulation and increase the supply of oxygen to the entire body. This allows the product to help relieve muscle pain in addition to its antioxidant benefits. A potential benefit of increased circulation is the ability to speed delivery of antioxidants throughout the body in addition to helping eliminate metabolic wastes more quickly.
Gotu Kola (50mg) is another herb that has antioxidant capabilities as well aiding in increasing circulation. It is helpful in decreasing fatigue and neutralizing blood acids and is useful for optimal heart and liver function.
Vinpocetine (5mg) is chemically related to, and derived from vincamine, an alkaloid found in the periwinkle plant. Studies with vinpocetine indicate that it can dilate blood vessels, enhance circulation in the brain, improve oxygen utilization, make red blood cells more pliable, and inhibit aggregation of platelets. Vinpocetine also has antioxidant properties.
Amounts listed are per capsule, and Hammer recommends 1-2 capsules per day for normal health enhancement and up to one capsule per 2- to 3 hours during extended exercise. A bottle of 60 capsules is $35.95. Buy three or more at a time and save $3 per bottle, and Hammer has further discounts for letting them auto-ship to you each month. And following this link embeds a coupon code that’ll get you 15% off your first order with them…use it wisely.
POMX ANTIOXIDANT RECOVERY
Basically, PomX Antioxidant Recovery is a super concentrated version of their Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice with their PomX pomegranate extract added. It contains high levels of naturally occuring polyphenol antioxidants from their Wonderful variety of the fruit. The polyphenols are found in high concentrations in the peel and membrane of the fruit, and Pom Wonderful extracts this to create several products (capsules, enhanced coffee drinks that don’t actually taste like pomegranate and this recovery concentrate). Together, the juice concentrate and extract milk the fruit for everything it’s got and deliver it to you in a convenient 16oz bottle.
According to their independent tests, subjects that took PomX experienced more than 30% less strength loss and 28% muscle soreness compared to a placebo. It wasn’t a large study, and the pile of literature they sent along with the sample bottles didn’t exactly say how it accomplishes such things. Pro cycling team Garmin Transitions uses it, though, so if you’re into buying products endorsed by pro teams, here you go. If you’re more inclined to believe a woefully unprepared someone that suffered through one of the hardest mountain bike stage races around, well, here you go.
There are published studies linked from their website, too, which the only place you can buy it – it’s not sold in stores. $24.95 for one 16oz bottle (8 x 2oz servings) or $49.95 for two bottles. Yes, technically that means that buying one bottle twice is cheaper by 5¢, the two bottle deal comes with free shipping, saving you another $5. Yes, that’s expensive. That’s why they have a 4-pack for $69.95, bringing the per bottle cost down to about $17.49, or a little over $2/serving.
PomX is also available in capsules if you prefer…the liquid concentrate is very, very tart and best mixed more than the 4:1 they recommend. And serve it ice cold. Or, mix it in a smoothie with some protein powder and fruit for a more complete recovery drink. Supposing you’re trying to lean down before race season starts, the PomX capsules are about $1 per serving and don’t come with the 20g of (naturally occurring) sugars in the concentrate. You’re not getting the additional antioxidants from the juice, though. Decisions…
The good news is these things appear to work. Most of the other riders were complaining of muscle soreness, but despite erratic sleeping on a partially inflated air mattress, I was only fatigued, not sore.
The bad news is I used them in combination, so I couldn’t honestly tell you which one worked or not, or if it was a combination of the two (more likely). But, given that antioxidants generally reduce oxidative damage, I suspect either one would help out, just choose the one that you like better.
Personally, I take a Super Antioxidant each day along with a multivitamin, fish oil, calcium, vitamin D, aspirin and a few other things, and am a big believer in supplementing and a generally healthy diet.