Going Green Why you’re better off sticking with the real deal than going down the supplement route when it comes to Quercetin - unless you've got a tail.
One of the most commonly asked questions in sports nutrition is “what supplements should I take?”, and with literally hundreds if not thousands available it is hard to know which to spend your money on. Quercetin, a flavanoid commonly found in apples, onions, broccoli and grapes, is one such compound that has been appearing in supplements purported to improve running performance. Initial studies in mice show increased running performance, and supplement companies claim this may be due to its positive effects on the immune system and also in reducing inflammation.
Graz Medical University in Austria completed a study using real human subjects to see if the Quercetin would have any positive benefits in human runners. In this placebo controlled, randomized cross-over trial, 20 subjects were asked to complete two 2-hr treadmill runs at 70% VO2max. Each subject was asked to take 1,000mg of Quercetin before run 1 and nothing before run 2 (separated by 3 weeks). Before, immediately after and again 1-hr after each run, blood samples were taken and measured for leukocytes, C-reactive protein and various cytokines – all markers of inflammation and immune function. The experimenters hypothesized that if the supplement had any effect on immune function or inflammation, then it would be noticeable in the blood. As expected Quercetin levels in the blood of each subject rose sharply after supplementing. There was however, absolutely no difference in post-exercise inflammation or immune function when the subjects took Quercetin as opposed to a placebo.
The take home message from this is that 1,000mg of Quercetin doesn’t appear to have any acute effects on your immune function or inflammation and therefore your ability to recover and perform better. Quercetin may have other health benefits though so if you do want to increase your intake, simply eat more apples, grapes and drink green tea. As far as Quercetin based supplements go, unless you have four legs and a tail they probably aren’t worth the investment.