Pre workout supplements are a massive deal.
Nothing beats that feeling of walking into the gym knowing that you’re energy count is up at 100, you’re dialed in to hit a new PR and in the war against you and the free weights there’ll only be one winner.
But whether or not you hit that record or fail to budge the plates from the ground is down to the ingredients in your pre workout. In this article we take a look at one nutrient that’s gaining popularity – quercetin anhydrous.
Is it an ingredient that warrants your attention or is it a case of manufacturers misrepresenting the science once again?
Let’s take a look…
- What is quercetin?
- Does it boost endurance or maximal fitness?
- Can it help you shred fat?
What is Quercetin?
Quercetin is a bioflavanoid found in different vascular plants. It is a polyphenol chemical that you’ll get in a range of different fruits and vegetables – particularly darker, redder foods such as apples, cherries, red onions and grapes.
Because it belongs to the flavanoid family, it provides deep pigmentation and vibrant colors but also offers antioxidant properties too. You’ll also find it in dark green vegetables as well as dark red foods.
It has been claimed to have anti-arthritic and anti-carcinogenic benefits, particularly in combination with other food-derived nutrients. In some studies it has been shown to have cell-protective properties, being able to protect DNA and cell membranes against free radical damage.
Low bioavailability in humans
Even though it may possess health-giving benefits, quercetin has a low bioavailability on it own, meaning that only a small amount is absorbed as a bioactive compound – even at high doses.
When obtained from food sources for example, the flavanol can have as low as 50% bioavailability plus or minus 15% – a big difference among individuals .
What is quercetin anhydrous?
Any nutrient that has ‘anhydrous’ in its name simply means it contains no water – it’s been dried out to a crystal-like compound. Hydrous of course refers to water, and an means without.
This makes it an easy-to-use supplement that can be added to water to make a juice or drink.
Can Quercetin Boost Exercise Performance?
As much as quercetin has been touted as ‘the next big thing’ by pre workout manufacturers, there’s actually not a great deal of research linking it to exercise performance.
And while that in itself is worrying, the research that is available isn’t convincing either.
Meta analysis shows trivial results on endurance
Researchers from the School of Applied Physiology in Georgia , published a systematic review and meta-analysis in 2011. This type of research is often considered the gold standard of statistical research as it combines data from multiple studies, thus helping to account for misreporting of stats in individual studies.
The purpose of the study was to investigate the possible effects of quercetin on endurance exercise capacity and included any studies that used key words such as performance, exercise, endurance or aerobic capacity.
At first glance it seemed like quercetin could be a beneficial performance enhancer- the effect size of results suggested a significant effect.
But when the data was analyzed in more detail, the results were said to be “trivial and small”.
The main problem here isn’t so much that the research found no real reason why quercetin should be used as a pre workout. The problem is that this one research paper is often used by supplement companies as their strongest reason for you to take it in the first place.
The recommendation to use quercetin as a pre workout is built on very weak scientific justification.
Quercetin has no effect on maximal oxygen consumption
In another meta-analysis, this time published in the International Journal of Sports of Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism , quercetin was investigated for its effects on maximal oxygen consumption – what’s commonly called V02 max.
The research team claimed that “lately, the effect of quercetin supplementation (QS) on endurance performance (EP) and maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) has been receiving much scientific and media attention” and they wanted to see if the science backed up the claims.
In total there were 7 research articles included in the meta-analysis, meaning there were a combined total of 288 participants analyzed.
And from that large sample, quercetin was found to improve maximal oxygen uptake by no more than a disappointing 0.74% – neither significant nor inspiring.
The research team concluded that quercetin is unlikely to prove ergogenic for aerobic-oriented exercises in trained and untrained individuals.
These results are echoed in individual studies too
A small, but nevertheless well presented study in the Journal of Sport Sciences  also investigated the effects of quercetin pre workout supplementation on maximal endurance.
They recruited 11 male and female volunteers and asked them to take a 1,000 mg quercetin pre workout for 6 consecutive days. On the sixth day, they took part in a maximal aerobic fitness test.
And much like the meta-analyses that were performed, the results didn’t find any difference whatsoever in either the female or male participants.
Key Point: Quercetin won’t improve either your endurance performance or your maximal oxygen consumption.
Quercetin is a flavanoid chemical found in a range of deep-colored fruits and vegetables. And whilst it might not be the most bioavailable phytochemical, it can help to promote health, particularly when combined with other nutrients.
But as a performance aid it leaves little to get excited about. It hasn’t been shown to boost any aspect of sports performance in meta-analyses, from either an endurance or maximal oxygen uptake point of view.
We suggest that in order to optimize your workouts you choose a pre workout supplement that has been seen to improve workout productivity in the research and focus on nutrients that will support your goals.
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- Chirumbolo, S. The role of quercetin, flavonols and flavones in modulating inflammatory cell function. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2010 Sep; 9(4): 263-85
- Kressler, J et al. Quercetin and endurance exercise capacity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011; 43(12): 2396-404
- Pelletier, DM et al. Effects of quercetin supplementation on endurance performance and maximal oxygen consumption: a meta-analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013; 23(1): 73-82
- Ganio, MS et al. Effect of quercetin supplementation on maximal oxygen uptake in men and women. J Sports Sci. 2010; 28(2): 201-8