Cactus juice makes you fitter
The fruits of Opuntia ficus-indica, a cactus that grows in all dry areas where it does not freeze in the winter, are not only edible, but are also packed with interesting bioactive substances. If you drink 150 milliliters of juice from this plant every day, you become fitter and faster. This is evident from a human study published by Tunisian researchers at the National Center of Medicine and Science in Sports in Food Science & Nutrition.
The researchers had 21 healthy, but not overly fit, male students take the yoyo-intermittent recovery test [P1]. Right afterwards they analyzed the blood of the men.
The researchers divided the men into 2 groups. One group drank 3 times a glass of 50 milliliter juice of the Opuntia ficus-indica cactus every day for 2 weeks after the test. The researchers had made the juice itself with a juicer. They used cacti that they had bought on the Tunis market.
The other group received a placebo. When the 2 weeks were over, the researchers repeated the test [P2].
The yoyo intermittent recovery test implies that athletes simply have to run 40 meters and walk 10 meters for as long as possible. The crux is that they have to cover those 40 meters in an increasingly shorter time. You can find a more
precise accurate explanation here.
The subjects who drank Opuntia juice could run a greater distance after the supplementation period than before. Yet they were less tired after the last test than after the previously completed test.
Supplementation with Opuntia ficus-indica increased the VO2max, shows the figure below.
After the tests, the concentration of CK, LDH and MDA in the blood of placebo group [CG] increased drastically. CK and LH are enzymes that are released when muscles are damaged, MDA is a substance created by the activity of free radicals. In the subjects who received Opuntia ficus-indica [EC], the rise of these concentration was reduced.
Apparantly Opuntia ficus-indica protects the muscles against exercise induced decay, the researchers conclude. They suspect the involvement of antioxidant mechanisms.
"Opuntia ficus-indica juice leads to an improvement of yo-yo intermittent recovery test performance", write the researchers. "In concordance with previous research, it seems that the enhancement of the yo-yo intermittent recovery test performance presented in this study is essentially due to the decrease of muscle damage and the rating of perceived exertion."
Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Dec 6;6(2):259-68.
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