Intense exercise, especially involving eccentric contractions, causes muscle damage concomitant with increased reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can lead to increased fatigue and decrements in physical performance. Additionally, inflammatory cytokines and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) are produced as a result of eccentric exercise and may further lead to decreased exercise performance. Nutritional interventions may provide an avenue to respond to and reduce the symptoms associated with muscle damage. Of recent interest, curcumin, the main constituent in the spice turmeric, has been the focus of various studies considering post-exercise recovery. Curcumin has potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce the accumulation of AGEs. This review considers the current evidence for curcumin to impact muscle recovery following exercise to improve performance and the potential mechanisms of action. To date, clinical studies have considered the potential role of curcumin to reduce muscular damage following treadmill running (downhill and flat), conventional walking/running, cycling (acute and chronic), single-leg jumping (downhill), and eccentric muscular fitness exercises of the upper and lower body (single- and double-leg). Studies have been conducted in sedentary to highly active men and women, both young and old, with supplementation duration lasting from a single, acute dose to daily dosages for three months. Various curcumin-based interventions have improved self-perceived measures of pain and tenderness, reduced evidence of muscle damage, ameliorated inflammatory markers, increased markers of antioxidant capacity, diminished markers of oxidative stress, reduced markers of AGEs, and attenuated loss in mean power of single-leg sprints. However, these findings have not been consistently reported.
Keywords: Turmeric; bioavailability; inflammation; metabolism; oxidative stress; sport.