At the end of last month, I raced Ironman 70.3 Qujing in China. The event took place between the altitudes of 1800-2100m above sea level, an elevation known to have noticeable effects on endurance performance due to the reduced levels of oxygen available in the air. With limited experience racing at high intensity and prolonged duration at this altitude, I was understandably anxious about how my body would tolerate the compromised oxygen supply and the expected symptoms that might result. Keeping in mind I was arriving straight from sea level (Noosa) I did nothing to specifically prepare for the thin air, or did I?
Over recent years there have been a number of natural fruit-based products that claim to act as an ergogenic aid when ingested due to key benefits relating to performance, recovery, immunity and fat metabolism. Tart cherry juice and beetroot extracts are prominent in this context and I have sampled both in the past but not continued my use of them due to a lack of noticeable effect over prolonged use (I am a bit of cynic and enjoy using myself as an experiment if I know the source of the experiment will not fail a drug test!). One product I have continued to use due to my own perception it works as well as the mounting scientific evidence for this is NZ grown blackcurrants.
A company called Health Currancy, based in the UK, manufactures CurraNZ and recently launched the product into Australasia. They offer a high dosage (tablet form) NZ blackcurrant supplement which is now proven via a range of peer-reviewed research publications to significantly enhance vasodilation (blood flow), antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses in athletes. As a professional athlete subject to on-going drug tests, it is also a peace of mind to have my CurraNZ supplies delivered with a certificate to notify me the batch has been tested by a leading British drug-testing lab (LGC) and is safe for legal consumption.
While the supportive research is extensive and quickly expanding, some of the key findings (for the sake of this article) that excite me show:
- Key increased blood flow/oxygen delivery indicators such as 20-35% increase femoral arterial blood flow (better aerobic and muscle performance and recovery/tissue repair).
- Enhanced fat oxidation (up to 27%) leading to reduced carbohydrate expenditure (up to 11%).
- Delayed onset of and quicker clearance of blood lactate.
- Enhanced immune system responses.
There are in fact many more benefits to regular use/ingestion of CurraNZ and I am including a round-up of the current key research articles as they relate to sports performance and recovery for the perusal of those interested. Anecdotally I have found myself recovering faster between key training sessions and races and remaining healthy despite traveling extensively recently and having young children who bring home regular ‘bugs’. But of most recent and noticeable significance, my race performance on Sunday didn’t seem as limited by the altitude as I had expected. While many of the fellow pro athletes discussed the heavy breathing at length post-race, I was less traumatised. Even with no swim warm-up and straight into 1.20/100m pace off the start line, my breathing seemed no different to any other start line experience. Admittedly on the bike and run I felt some degree of restriction in what power I could produce (and later realised my power on the bike was down slightly on ‘usual’), but not to the extent I expected nor to that described by other pros.
It must be acknowledged that to date there is no research to support my impression that CurraNZ can support an athletic response to altitude in endurance sport, but many of the other research findings relating to blood flow and oxygen delivery certainly would not discount it and would in fact indicate it would be a logical assumption. I am also happy to report my perceived level of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs) post-race seems much less compared to previous experiences racing over this format. My experience here is supported in the research indicating increased blood flow which enhances nutrient delivery and metabolite clearance resulting from heavy exercise.
So while I am conscious that there are many sports supplements available to endurance athletes that purport to improve performance, I am also someone who struggles to trust the efficacy of such claims until: a) I trust the supplement is produced in a clean and ethical manner and b) I am able to notice real-life benefits to using and investing in such supplements. I can report that CurraNZ is one of the very few supplements I now take and I firmly plan to continue taking for as long as optimal physical performance remains a priority to me.
If you are interested in ordering your own supply of CurraNZ then either visit www.curranz.co.nz or get in touch and I’ll help get you sorted.