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Sports Med. 2007;37(6):519-32.

The role of nutritional supplements in the prevention and treatment of resistance exercise-induced skeletal muscle injury.

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Department of Health and Sport Sciences, The University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee 38152-3480, USA.


The topic of exercise-induced skeletal muscle injury has received considerable attention in recent years. Likewise, strategies to minimise the injury resulting from heavy resistance exercise have been studied. Over the past 15 years, several investigations have been performed focused on the role of nutritional supplements to attenuate signs and symptoms of muscle injury. Of these, some have reported favourable results, while many others have reported no benefit of the selected nutrient. Despite these mixed findings, recommendations for the use of nutritional supplements for the purposes of attenuating muscle injury are rampant within the popular fitness media and athletic world, largely without scientific support. Those nutrients include the antioxidant vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (tocopherol), N-acetyl-cysteine, flavonoids, L-carnitine, astaxanthin, beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, creatine monohydrate, essential fatty acids, branched-chain amino acids, bromelain, proteins and carbohydrates. A discussion of all published peer-reviewed articles in reference to these nutrients and their impact on resistance exercise-induced skeletal muscle injury is presented, in addition to a brief view into the potential mechanism of action for each nutrient.Based on the current state of knowledge, the following conclusions can be made with regard to nutritional supplements and their role in attenuating signs and symptoms of skeletal muscle injury occurring as a consequence of heavy resistance exercise: (i) there appears to be a potential role for certain supplements (vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids, and L-carnitine); (ii) these supplements cannot effectively eliminate muscle injury, only attenuate certain signs and symptoms; (iii) it is presently unclear what the optimal dosage of these nutrients is (whether used alone or in combination); (iv) it is unclear what the optimal pretreatment period is; and (v) the effectiveness is largely specific to non-resistance trained individuals.Ultimately, because so few studies have been conducted in this area, it is difficult to recommend with confidence the use of selected nutrients for the sole purpose of minimising signs and symptoms of resistance exercise-induced muscle injury, in particular with regard to resistance-trained individuals.

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