Anthocyanins (ACN), the sub-class of (poly)phenols responsible for the red-blue-purple pigmentation of fruit and vegetables, have gained considerable interest in sport and exercise research due to their potential to facilitate exercise recovery. A systematic literature search was performed using PubMed, The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus and CINAHL. Thirty nine studies were included and the standardized mean difference (Hedges g) for creatine kinase (CK), anti-oxidative and inflammatory markers, strength, power and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) indices were pooled in separate meta-analyses; meta-regression was also performed on reported ACN dose. Immediately post-exercise there was an increase in antioxidant capacity (g: 0.56) and reduced C reactive protein (g: −0.24) and tumor necrosis factor α (g: −40); p ≤ 0.02. Strength was improved with ACN at all time points (g: 0.45–0.67). DOMS (g: −0.23) was lower 24 hours post-exercise and power was improved 24 hours (g: 0.62) and 48 hours (g: 0.57) post exercise. The CK was lower 48 hours post-exercise (g: −0.31) and there was a trend for a positive association with ACN dose (p = 0.057). This systematic review provides new data showing ACN-rich foods promote functional and subjective recovery likely due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of ACN.
- exercise recovery
- muscle soreness