Bee Pollen for Athletes
Bee pollen is the best natural source of the plant chemical quercetin, a potent antioxidant with ergogenic, muscle-building effects. Numerous tests with sedentary lab animals have found that quercetin supplementation roughly equivalent to 3 grams (1 teaspoon) of bee pollen every day:
- Dramatically boosts the performance of mitochondria in muscle,
- Increases muscle endurance by about 35 to 40%, and
- Activates a gene called PPAR-gamma, which pulls sugar out of the bloodstream into muscle (and fat) cells that need it.
But can quercetin also improve endurance and athletic performance in human athletes? Or is it just useful for fighting inflammation and allergies in athletes like it is for everyone else?
That is what investigators at the University of Georgia in the United States set to find out. The University of Georgia research team recruited physically active young men who did not do formal athletic training to see whether quercetin supplementation would help them get greater benefits from athletic training. (The researchers only recruited men for the study because they did not want to have to account for the effects of the menstrual cycle.) Only 15 volunteers, all in their early- to mid-twenties, were recruited for the study.
One group of volunteers was given a sports beverage formulated by the the Coca-Cola Company that provided niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and 1,000 of mg of quercetin per day, and the other group was given a beverage without the quercetin that looked and tasted the same. They drank the test beverage or the placebo for 7 days, and then return to the lab for physical training and measurements.
The researchers found that:
- Volunteers who drank the quercetin-enriched beverage had greater aerobic capacity than volunteers who did not, but the difference was not statistically significant,
- Volunteers who drank the quercetin-enriched beverage had faster recovery time than volunteers who did not, but the difference was not statistically significant,
- Volunteers who drank the quercetin-enriched beverage greater peak oxygen use than volunteers who did not, but the difference was not statistically significant, and
- Volunteers who drank the quercetin-enriched beverage had stronger heart rates than volunteers who did not, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Of course, if you only have 15 volunteers in your study, you aren't going to get statistical significance. The trend of the results was that quercetin enhances performance among untrained athletes, although the benefits were not dramatic.
Does this study prove anything about bee pollen? If the results are examined honestly, then what can be said is that quercetin and products that are rich in quercetin are at least worth a serious test. Other studies have not found benefit for elite athletes, but elite athletes already receive massive nutritional supplementation. It may be that bee pollen products are helpful for beginning athletes. An honest test simply is yet to be made.
You, however, can try bee pollen for yourself, in sports bars, in capsules, and as an addition to your post-workout drink. You should feel and measure benefits in about a week. If not, simply return the product for a full refund. Please share your experience with us, and check back here for updates on bee pollen research.
- Cureton KJ, Tomporowski PD, Singhal A, Pasley JD, Bigelman KA, Lambourne K, Trilk JL, McCully KK, Arnaud MJ, Zhao Q. Dietary quercetin supplementation is not ergogenic in untrained men. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Oct;107(4):1095-104. Epub 2009 Aug 13.