When Health Currancy offered product sponsorship with the CurraNZ supplement I was keen to accept. I had used a sample that I had acquired in a race goody bag last year in the run up to the Volcano Marathon, but with such a small sample it was hard to know how I had benefitted.
I checked with Nairn Scobie at the Glasgow University School of Life Sciences and we both read the information provided and looked at the research. The conclusion was that there was good research and evidence, and given the demands of my training and race schedule this year it may well be beneficial. I am a great believer in the power of antioxidants.
Without going into great detail here, it is worth sharing some of the key highlights from the information on the Health Currancy website:
World-first research highlights how CurraNZ offers potential benefits as a pre-workout supplement that may aid endurance and recovery - and presents an exciting development in the sports nutrition field.
New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanins, the concentrated active ingredient in CurraNZ, are highly valued for their antioxidant action and effect on blood flow, making our all-natural product a truly compelling supplement for athletes or active people of any level.
Other studies into the use of NZ blackcurrant have shown additional benefits:
Controls oxidative stress and inflammation
Controls muscle damage and soreness
Assists immune protection – enhanced immunity
Faster tissue repair and recovery
Train harder, recover faster
A study at the University of Chester on 13 subjects in a double-blind, cross-over, randomized trial using physically active males tested the effect of seven days of CurraNZ blackcurrant in high-intensity intermittent running to exhaustion. The results showed:
- CurraNZ improved distance covered during sprints by an average 10.8%
- 1 in 3 subjects improved more than 15%
- Despite the longer running duration, there was a trend towards higher lactate at exhaustion, suggesting greater tolerance
- By 30 mins after exercise completion, lactate clearance was greater in 64% of participants
The possibility of greater lactate tolerance and improved lactate clearance – reduced DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - were of particular interest to me as an ultra runner. As was faster tissue repair and recovery.
With the North Pole Marathon and the Hoka Highland Fling coming in close succession with just 2 weeks between them I knew that I was going to need to be on top form and be able to recover quickly between races. The recovery timeframe was short and there would be no time to train with any degree of effectiveness. Moving forward, I have limited windows of opportunity for recovery, training and taper into my other races throughout the year.
My VO2 Max and Lactate thresholds had been tested at the start of March shortly before I started to take the CurraNZ. The VO2 Max was 41.2 and lactate threshold occurred at 9.8km/hr with a heart rate of 166. These indicate a high level of fitness and a well-trained athlete.
I duly started to use the CurraNZ dosing as follows:
1 capsule per day during routine training periods
2 capsules before a race or long training session (which I defined as any run taking more than 4 hours)
1 capsule every 4 hours during an ultra/extreme event (where duration exceeded 4 hours)
2 capsules per day during initial recovery stages post-race or long effort
On race days the dosage could be increased to: 2 capsules on waking, then a further 2 every 4 hours up to, during and post-race. I have not at this point taken this level of dosage.
This was in interesting point to start using the CurraNZ as my training was peaking and about to move into the taper for the North Pole Marathon. Not surprisingly, when the VO2 Max and LT test were done again at the end of March there was little change.
The North Pole Marathon
I continued with normal dosage in the days prior to the marathon. The race day dosage was as follows:
2 capsules in the morning at breakfast
1 capsule approximately 4 hours into the race
1 capsule post race
I then returned to normal dosage of 1 per day.
The marathon was run on energy sapping, uneven ankle deep soft snow in temperatures dropping to -41 and up to 10 mph winds. Not your average marathon. Pace was much slower than normal due to the environmental and underfoot conditions. It was a hard effort and I fully expected my legs to tire relatively quickly as there was no running economy. This did not happen and my legs remained strong and powerful throughout the race; neither did I experience any DOMS post race. Based on my experience from the Antarctic races in 2013 I did not expect DOMS as there had been no real speed involved and I believe that the cold environment also helps to reduce this. However, based on how much my stability was tested on the North Pole terrain I was expecting some soreness and was pleasantly surprised when it did not materialise.
For me, the main advantage was going to be in the recovery as I had to run the 53 mile Hoka Highland Fling in just 2 weeks.
The Hoka Highland Fling
I followed the same regime in the run up to the race, normal daily dosage up to race day, then on race day 2 capsules with breakfast and then a single capsule every 4 hours throughout the race which I completed 13:18.04.
My race pace was faster than I had expected and planned for but it felt comfortable and my energy levels remained steady throughout, although I had a major dip roundabout 34/35 miles in.
Similar to the previous race I did not experience the heavy legged fatigue that I would have expected on this race due to amount of climb. There is an accumulated climb of 7.5k feet in this race. My legs remained strong and relatively pain free throughout.
Post race I took 2 capsules and I took 2 capsules a day for 3 days post race. Unfortunately I did experience severe DOMS and it was not until the 4th day post race that it fully cleared. With hindsight I probably should have taken double doses post race and possibly during the race.
There is no issues taking a larger dose as they are completely natural and you body simply clears what it does not need or use.
Preparation for the West Highland Way Race
With just 9 weeks between the Fling and the West Highland Way race it was essential that I recover quickly and make the most of the relatively small training window between the events.
It has been an interesting journey. Whilst my muscles have recovered quickly my energy levels both physical and mental remained low. After taking a full week’s rest I then eased into recovery training for 2 weeks with some short and gentle efforts, but have struggled to get back to the long runs. Finally, in my 4th week post Fling I felt that my energy levels were back and I have been able to return to a ‘normal’ training pattern, and took a calculated risk when I set out to do a 20 mile run on the West Highland Way when my longest run in recent weeks had only amounted to 8.5 miles. I can report that I completed 21 mile comfortably with good energy levels, strong legs and minimal DOMs, which surprised me.
I was rather disorganised on the day that I did this long run only taking a single capsule at breakfast and forgetting to take capsules away with me. I was away overnight and so it was a full 24 hours before I was able to take another dose. So on the day after the effort I took 2 capsules followed by a further 2 in the evening. On day 2 post effort I took a single capsule morning and night and on day 3 returned to normal dose.
I have had a further VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold test also. Once more there is little or no change although my VO2 max has increased slightly to 43.5. This is a good result given the punishing race schedule and the fact that I have been in recovery and maintenance training.
The West Highland Way race is 95 miles with 14k feet of climb that has to be completed in 35 hours and with cut-off times at the main check points. The CurraNZ will play a key part in my on-going and final preparation for the race, and will be used throughout with the hope that it will reduce inflammation, muscle damage and help to maintain power and cognitive acuteness.
Finally: one thing that I have noticed is a marked improvement in my gut health. I have always suffered from gastric distress when running both in training and during races. It can be incredibly debilitating. I have worked over the years on my nutrition and hydration and by a process of elimination managed to reach a point where it was less likely to happen but had by no means eliminated it completely. Since I have been taking the CurraNZ I have had no gastric distress. This is immensely beneficial.