Turmeric is a very well known and widely consumed plant as a spice. Many articles describe the benefits and potential dangers of consuming turmeric. In this article, we will focus mainly on the turmeric sport benefits.
Turmeric and curcumin what are the differences
In many cases the whole spice called turmeric is confused with one of its components, curcumin. In this regard, we read many contradictory things about them that I would like to clarify before talking about their benefits.
Turmeric is not only curcumin ! They don’t have the same effects and the same indications.
The spice turmeric
Turmeric is a perennial rhizomatous herbaceous plant. The plant is composed of :
- 60-70% carbohydrates
- 6-13% water
- 5-10% lipids
- 6-8% protein
- 2-7% fiber
- 3-7% essential oils
- 1-6% curcumin
Its benefits : The spice turmeric relieves difficult digestion, gastric ulcers, arthritis, paintful or irregular periods, diarrhea and even skin problems.
The active ingredient of turmeric: Curcumin
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It is found between 1 to 6% in the spice of turmeric.
Its benefits : Anti-inflammatory anticancer and antimicrobial effects. However, curcumin has a very low bioavailability. In other words, the amount of curcumin absorbed by the body is very low compared to the amount consumed. In fact, we absorb little curcumin despite the large amount ingested.
The benefits of turmeric for sport
We were able to analyze the effects of curcumin supplementation in different types of exercise. The first study analyzed is a systematic review of 11 articles in which the benefits of curcumin on high intensity muscle contraction type training (HIMT) were studied.
The second study looked at the effects of curcumin after long aerobic exercise (half marathon).
Learn more about these studies ...
The first study : Curcumin supplementation for aerobic-type exercise.
In this artcile, 28 healthy men were randomly assigned to two separate groups.
In the first experimental group, each man received 3 capsules of curcumin per day of 500 mg each.
While the second group, or placebo group, received no capsules.
The second study : Curcumin supplementation for EIMD-type efforts.
In this systematic review of 19 publications, 237 people participated in the studies, inclunding 187 men and 50 women. Of these participants, 10 were high-level atlhetes, 131 participants were moderately active peopleand 96 were people who were asked not to undergo pre-study training.
Regarding the daily dose of curcumin, 7 studies use doses ranging from 150 to 1500 mg while 2 studies tested higherdoses of approximately 5g and 6g per day. In 9 of the included studies, supplementation was administrated before and after exercise. The duration of supplementation could vary from 1 to 56 days.
After an effort without curcumin
In the placebo groups of the different studies (1-2) we could observe :
- An increase in inflammatory processes
- A decrease in the ability to generate muscle strength
- A decrease in the amplitude of movement, otherwise known as ROM
- An increase in delayed muscle pain
- Increased risk of muscle damage
Before and after an effort with curcumin
Curcumin has been proven in several studies (1-2). Indeed, curcumin supplementation in half-marathoners and athletes with EIMD training has shown its benefits :
- Decreased muscle damage and trauma
- Increased muscle performance
- Decrease in oxidative stress of sport
- Anti-inflammatory effect
- Reduces the subjective perception of pain intensity
- Accelerates recovery
In other words, curcumin could be an aid to improve physical performance and reduce the damage that can be caused by sport activity.
The dosage of turmeric
What is the minimum dose to have benefits ?
The minimum dose to have such results is between 150 mg and 1500 mg of curcumin before and immediately after a physical effort.
When can curcumin be used ?
- During periods of high demand (tournaments and competitions) to accelerate recovery and prevent the progression of symptoms
- Before and after exercise to modulate the inflammatory response
- Use to improve performance, not inflammatory processes
Possible side effects
It is important to know that curcumin supplementation is unfavorable for subjects suffering from irritable bowel.
Also, it is important to supplement properly, as persistent use can affect training adaptations in athletes.
Curcumin should always be used as a pharmaceutical preparation and not as a spice to avoid the toxic effects of fortificant aphlotoxins.
How to better absorb the benefits of turmeric ?
Isolated curcumin has a low bioavailability, it is very poorly absorbed by the body. This is why it is very quickly transformed by the liver and then eliminated by the body. Fortunately, there are associations that multiply its absorption and therefore its effects.
By adding pepper to our dish combined with turmeric, we increase the bioavailability by 20. Attention for all those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, some studies recommend adding a dietary fat such as coconut oil, olive oil… And heat for 10 minutes the main active ingredient of turmeric, curcumin would become 12 times more soluble in hot water.
How to choose your turmeric ?
In the shops, you can find various brands of turmeric as well as spices from organic agriculture (bio). Is it important to choose organic turmeric and why ?
First of all, it is essential to avoid pesticides and radioactive treatments with gamma rays for sterilization.
Secondly, it is interesting to know the origin of the spices.
For example, organic turmeric-based spices are good for these reasons. They are free of pesticides and do not undergo radioactive gamma ray treatments. On the other hand, it is necessary to pay attention to its origin, the spices coming from Bangladesh sometimes have lead chromate to accentuate the yellow color of the spice.
If you want to supplement with curcumin, what should you choose ?
Firstly, it is important to check the excipients added in the turmeric spices bought in the shops.
Secondly, it is strongly recommended to pay attention to the list of components. In general, proprietary curcumin brands are rather careful about questionable excipients.
Avoid curcumin and turmeric in these situations
- History of oxalate-based kidney stones.Turmeric with its high oxalic acid content is not recommended for these patients.
- Obstruction of the bile ducts: the curcumin present in turmeric can cause complications if the bile ducts are obstructed.
- Blood-thinning drugs: Curcumin is contraindicated with vitamin K-type anticoagulants and direct oral anticoagulants. The risk of bleeding is important.
- Surgical procedure
Turmeric should be discontinued two weeks before surgery. High risk of bleeding.
- Antidiabetic drugs
Curcumin is hypoglycemic and may cause blood sugar imbalances in patients with diabetes.
- Beware of skin reactions
May be due to allergies to curcumin.
- Sensitivity to hypoglycemic states.
In people sensitive to hypoglycemic states, it is advisable to ingest curcumin during the evening meal. Especially for thin people sensitive to hypoglycemia.
- 1. Fernández-Lázaro D, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Seco Calvo J, Córdova Martínez A, Caballero García A, Fernandez-Lazaro CI. Modulation of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage, Inflammation, and Oxidative Markers by Curcumin Supplementation in a Physically Active Population: A Systematic Review. Nutrients [Internet]. févr 2020 [cité 6 déc 2020];12(2):501
- 2. Faria FR, Gomes AC, Antunes A, Rezende KR, Pimentel GD, Oliveira CLP, et al. Effects of turmeric extract supplementation on inflammation and muscle damage after a half-marathon race: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Appl Physiol [Internet]. 1 juill 2020 [cité 6 déc 2020];120(7):1531‑40.