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Antioxidants and exercise: no pain, no gains?

Some people turn to antioxidants to help with delayed onset muscle soreness. This recent Cochrane review examines whether they're effective.

Study under review: Antioxidants for preventing and reducing muscle soreness after exercise.

Introduction

Study Deep Dives readers are likely familiar with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which peaks roughly 24-72 hours[1] after unaccustomed or intense exercise. While some people wear this soreness as a badge of honor, most try to eliminate it completely.

As shown in Figure 1, several mechanisms have been proposed[1] to contribute to DOMS, including damage to the muscle fibers and connective tissue, and increased levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. Accordingly, one way of reducing DOMS could be through the use of antioxidant[2] and anti-inflammatory[3] compounds. Both the ease of access and the convenience of taking a pill make it a tempting target for investigation. A lot of investigations have already been done, but most involve small trials with less ability to detect effects, if any exist. This makes the subject of DOMS ripe for a meta-analysis.

The study under review was a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the effects of antioxidant supplements on the development and severity of DOMS after exercise.

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is caused, in part, by an exercise-induced increase in oxidative stress and inflammation. The study under review is a meta-analysis of studies that evaluate the impact of antioxidants on DOMS development and severity.

Who and what was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #41 (March 2018)