Thursday, June 1, 2023

Can garlic enhance athletic performance?

Garlic has nutrients that improve blood flow and endurance. But it is not banned from competitive use as it has not shown improvement in world class athletes.

Garlic starts as a great candidate for improving physical performance. It has many nutrients that can help improve cardiovascular health and it has thousands of years of use to support the same.

Garlic as the World’s First Performance-Enchancing Drug

In the ancient Olympics in Greece, the athletes were given garlic for enhancing their performance. Those games were conducted from 776 BC to 393 AD. So garlic was probably the first performance-enhancing drug, used nearly 2,800 years ago.

In many cultures, garlic was also given to labourers to increase their strength and working capacity. Even the medical texts from diverse countries such as Egypt, Greece, Italy, India and China have mentioned garlic for its heart-related benefits. Considering that these cultures arrived at similar conclusions independently about the benefits of garlic, we need to pay better attention to them.

Why Garlic Improves Physical Performance

When consumed, garlic releases nitric oxide, which is known to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. That helps improve blood flow through the arteries as well as the extremities such as the limbs.

By improving the blood flow, garlic is expected to help in reducing tiredness and increasing endurance. In animal trials, garlic is found to increase exercise performance. So garlic is thought to be an anti-fatigue agent.

In fact, in some human trials, garlic improved exercise tolerance. That is, at the highest exertion levels, it did not allow the heart rate to go as high as it did without consumption of garlic. Also, it reduced the work load on the heart during the exercise. But the trial was conducted in patients who had heart disease, i.e., people with impaired cardiovascular health.

Some other trials have shown that garlic improved VO2 max and endurance performance in college endurance athletes during a treadmill running test.

Why is Garlic Not Banned in Competitions?

When the trials were conducted with world-class athletes and garlic use, it did not show any statistically significant improvement in the performance.

So as of now, there are a lot of reasons but no evidence that garlic helps in highest levels of sports performance. So you can try your luck with garlic in improving your performance in local meets, but don’t expect to win a Gold Medal in the Olympics!

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has rightfully chosen not to ban garlic use in the absence of comprehensive evidence.

This information is from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. It discusses twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also covers how to select and store and who should avoid them.

The superfoods: Tomatoes, carrots, spinach, beetroot, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, pineapples, papaya, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, flax seeds, aloe vera, green tea, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).

How Much Garlic to Consume?

There are many ways to consume garlic—fresh garlic, dried garlic powder, aged-garlic extract, and garlic oil. The amount to consume changes based on the type you choose. Here is a summary video of mine on YouTube:

To Read More

First published on: 13th January, 2023
Image credit: Image by postchiangmai0 from Pixabay


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