The purpose of the study was to determine the effect of ginseng-based steroid Rg1 on TNF-alpha and IL-10 gene expression in human skeletal muscle against exercise challenge, as well as on its ergogenic outcomes. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trials were performed, separated by a 4-week washout. Healthy young men were randomized into two groups and received capsule containing either 5 mg of Rg1 or Placebo one night and one hour before exercise. Muscle biopsies were conducted at baseline, immediately and 3 h after a standardized 60-min cycle ergometer exercise. While treatment differences in glycogen depletion rate of biopsied quadriceps muscle during exercise did not reach statistical significance, Rg1 supplementations enhanced post-exercise glycogen replenishment and increased citrate synthase activity in the skeletal muscle 3 h after exercise, concurrent with improved meal tolerance during recovery (P<0.05). Rg1 suppressed the exercise-induced increases in thiobarbituric acids reactive substance (TBARS) and reversed the increased TNF-alpha and decreased IL-10 mRNA of quadriceps muscle against the exercise challenge. PGC-1 alpha and GLUT4 mRNAs of exercised muscle were not affected by Rg1. Maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) was not changed by Rg1. However, cycling time to exhaustion at 80% VO2max increased significantly by ~20% (P<0.05).
Conclusion: Our result suggests that Rg1 is an ergogenic component of ginseng, which can minimize unwanted lipid peroxidation of exercised human skeletal muscle, and attenuate pro-inflammatory shift under exercise challenge.