Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron, is a rich source of carotenoids with many health benefits. The muscular strength, pulmonary function, and reaction time are vital to the athlete's performance, and this study aimed to investigate an ergogenic effect of saffron. Twenty-eight nonactive and healthy male university students were randomly assigned into the saffron (n = 14) and control (n = 15) groups. The experimental group received dried saffron stigma (300 mg/day for 10 days) and the control group received a placebo. After one session, familiarization with the tests, anthropometric parameters, visual and audio reaction times, and the maximum isometric and isotonic forces on a leg press machine were measured accordingly, 1 day before and after the supplementation period. This study shows that 10 days of supplementation with saffron significantly increased (10.1%) the isometric force (p < .0001; effect size (EF) = 0.432) and increased 6.1% the isotonic force (p < .0001; effect size = 0.662), as well as effecting faster visual (p < .05; EF = 0.217) and audio (p < .05; EF = 0.214) reaction times. The ergogenic effect of saffron (increase in the forces) may contribute to increase in the muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and positive effect on the motor cortex, both of which may explain faster audio and visual reaction times. Saffron supplementation was also possibly responsible for improvement of muscle blood perfusion and facilitation in the oxygen transport.
Keywords: isometric force; isotonic force; reaction time; saffron.