Aim: The aim of this registry study was to evaluate the effects of Pycnogenol® (French pine bark extract) on improving physical fitness (PF) in normal individuals using the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The study evaluated the efficacy of Pycnogenol, used as a supplement, in improving training, exercise, recovery and oxidative stress.
Methods: The study was divided into 2 parts. In PART 1 (Pycnogenol 100 mg/day), the APFT was used to assess an improvement in PF during an 8-week preparation and training program. In PART 2 (Pycnogenol 150 mg/day), the study evaluated the effects of Pycnogenol supplementation in athletes in training for a triathlon.
Results: PART 1. There was a significant improvement in both males and females in the 2-mile running time within both groups, but the group using Pycnogenol (74 subjects) performed statistically better than controls (73 subjects). The number of push-ups was improved, with Pycnogenol subjects performing better. Sit-ups also improved in the Pycnogenol group. Oxidative stress decreased with exercise in all subjects; in Pycnogenol subjects the results were significantly better. PART 2. In the Pycnogenol group 32 males (37.9; SD 4.4 years) were compliant with the training plan at 4 weeks. In controls there were 22 subjects (37.2;3.5) completing the training plans. The swimming, biking and running scores in both groups improved with training. The Pycnogenol group had more benefits in comparison with controls. The total triathlon time was 89 min 44 s in Pycnogenol subjects versus 96 min 5 s in controls. Controls improved their performing time on average 4.6 minutes in comparison with an improvement of 10.8 minutes in Pycnogenol subjects. A significant decrease in cramps and running and post-running pain was seen in the Pycnogenol group; there were no significant differences in controls. There was an important, significant post-triathlon decrease of PFR one hour after the end of the triathlon with an average of -26.7, whereas PFR in controls increased. In Pycnogenol subjects there was a lower increase on oxidative stress with a faster recovery to almost normal levels (<330 for these subjects). These variations in PFR values were interpreted as a faster metabolic recovery in subjects using Pycnogenol.
Conclusion: This study opens an interesting new application of the natural supplementation with Pycnogenol that, with proper hydration, good training and nutritional attention may improve training and performances both in normal subjects and in semi-professional athletes performing at high levels in difficult, high-stress sports such as the triathlon.