Turmeric may improve post-exercise recovery in elite athletes, study suggests

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags Turmeric Curcumin Inflammation Sports nutrition athletic performance

The new study notes that following the consumption of a turmeric supplement, subjective measures of leg and whole-body soreness improved whilst causing a reduction in markers of inflammation.

The study specifies that the supplement, containing the equivalent of 1400mg of curcumin paired with piperine, reduced the inflammatory marker of plasma C-reactive proteins (CRPs)

However, the report observes that no effect was found for measures of plasma creatine kinase (CK) levels, counter movement jump (CMJ), and isometric mid-thigh pull (IMTP) following supplementation.

The UK-based researchers emphasise: “This applied study is the first in elite footballers to show that a curcumin-containing supplementation may attenuate a biomarker of inflammation [CRP] and soreness post-match play.”

They add: “These findings suggest that a commercially available and easy to consume turmeric supplement may accelerate post-match recovery and this warrants further investigation.”

Sporting nutrition

It is known ​that prolonged periods of high-intensity exercise can increase the risk of muscle damage whilst stimulating the release of reactive oxygen species, and thus, an inflammatory response within the body. Whilst this is a natural process, tissue repair and the free-radical removal process can impact sporting performance and increase risk of injury.

This is particularly important ​for professional footballers, with UK teams subject to a high number of matches per season with often only 2-3 days of recovery in between. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is common ​within professional footballers to overcome associated muscle soreness, yet there has been increased concern relating to their long-term usage and adverse side effects.

Therefore, there has been increased interest ​the use of dietary supplements, with certain compounds found to be associated with reduced inflammation and restored muscle function. One such compound ​exhibiting these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties includes the potent polyphenol curcumin, found in high concentrations within turmeric.  

Whilst studies ​have noted its efficacy in reducing post-exercise soreness, reduced muscle soreness, and improved exercise performance, there is a lack of research investigating its ability to accelerate post-match recovery in elite footballers. Therefore, the present study sought to assess the effectiveness of a turmeric supplement on these outcomes.

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Twenty-four professional male footballers were divided into groups with one group consuming 35g of turmeric, equivalent to 1400mg of curcumin, twice a day within a 60ml drink. Following a rest period of 96 hours, baseline measurements were collected with regards to subjective leg and whole-body soreness, CK levels, CRP levels, IMTP and CMJ. These data points were then collated immediately following eight competitive matches, as well as at the time-points of 40h and 64h post-match.

It was reported that there was a significant main observed effect of group and time of the supplement, as shown by the percentage change from baseline for leg and whole-body soreness.

In addition, there was a group by time interaction effect noted for CRP. However, no effects were observed on CK, CMJ or IMTP for the turmeric supplement.


“We found that turmeric supplementation attenuated subjective markers of muscle soreness and reduced plasma [CRP] – a haematological marker of inflammation – at 64 h post-match, compared to a control group who did not consume the supplement,” the researchers conclude.

Hypothesising the effects of the turmeric supplementation on reducing the inflammatory response in the athletes, the researchers highlight previous studies that noted that curcumin was able to downregulate inflammatory regulators, including nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-κB) activation and enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Due to their central involvement in the inflammatory cascade, these findings reinforce those noted in the present study.

Yet, the researchers emphasise the need for further study to utilise more objective measures such as the plasma blood levels of curcumin. In addition, higher levels of controls are needed to improve the study validity and prove a causal relationship.




Source: Frontiers in Nutrition


Turmeric supplementation improves markers of recovery in elite male footballers: a pilot study”

David J. Clayton, Ross Burbeary, Philip J. Hennis, Ruth M. James, Christopher Saward, Amy Colledge, Reece Scott, Steve Gilpin, Ryan McMahon and Ian Varley

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