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Vitamin B2 reduces muscle breakdown during ultramarathon and speeds up recovery

A hefty 200 mg dose of riboflavin - also known as vitamin B2, structural formula shown below - protects athletes' muscles against breakdown as a result of extreme exertion, and it also speeds up recovery. American sports scientists write about this in Sports Medicine - Open. The researchers demonstrated the anti-catabolic effect of vitamin B2 during an ultramarathon.


Vitamin B2
The researchers did an experiment with 32 athletes who ran 161 kilometres during the Western States Endurance Run. The researchers gave 18 of the participants a capsule containing 100 mg riboflavin half an hour before the start of the ultramarathon, and another one after 90 kilometres. The rest of the subjects took a placebo containing a little beta-carotene.

"Because riboflavin can cause urine to appear bright or fluorescent yellow and might allow subjects to suspect they were in the treatment group, the small amount of beta-carotene was added to the placebo, as done in a prior placebo-controlled trial of riboflavin, since it can also cause a similar urine color change," the researchers explained.

The vitamin B2 supplementation resulted in a statistically significant decrease in pain sensations during the ultramarathon.

Vitamin B2 reduces muscle breakdown during ultramarathon and speeds up recovery

Vitamin B2 reduces muscle breakdown during ultramarathon and speeds up recovery

On days 3, 5 and 10 after the ultramarathon the participants had to run a distance of 400 m as fast as they could. On days 3 and 5 the participants who had been given vitamin B2 performed significantly better than the participants in the placebo group. That suggests that vitamin B2 supplementation speeds up muscle recovery.

"As for other flavonoids, riboflavin is known to exhibit antioxidant properties and protect tissue from oxidative damage [Nutr Rev. 1993 May;51(5):149-50.] [Am J Hematol. 1993 Jan;42(1):13-8.] [Transplantation. 2007 Mar 27;83(6):747-53.] [Eur J Nutr. 2013 Aug;52(5):1513-21.] [J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 1982;28(4):329-34.] [Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 May;67:65-71.] [Inflammation. 1999 Oct;23(5):449-60.]", the researchers wrote. "Riboflavin is also important in cell repair and production and for protecting mitochondrial and other enzymes as a mitochondrial enzyme cofactor or cofactor precursor."

"From this work, we conclude that there is some evidence that riboflavin supplementation immediately before and midway through prolonged running may reduce muscle pain and soreness during and at the completion of the exercise, and that there is some suggestion that riboflavin might enhance functional recovery after the exercise," the researchers summarised.

"We acknowledge that this study is a preliminary examination of riboflavin for this purpose and involved a small number of subjects in which the dose and dosing schedule might not have been optimal. As such, the findings appear intriguing and warrant additional investigation of riboflavin as a means to reduce muscle pain during exercise and to enhance post-exercise recovery."

Sports Med Open. 2017 Dec;3(1):14.

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