Cranberry Supplementation Can Boost Athletic Performance During Strenuous Exercise


Cranberry extract improved speed in the 1500-meter time trial by 1.5%.

Cranberry supplementation can boost athletic performance and delay muscle fatigue during exercise, according to the authors of a recent study published in Physical Activity and Nutrition. Runners who supplemented with cranberry extract for 28 days had a better running speed in the 1500-meter run, less lactate buildup following a 400-meter run, and their muscles extracted oxygen better.1,2

Image Credit: Adobe Stock - Maks Narodenko

Image Credit: Adobe Stock - Maks Narodenko

“When it comes to elite athletes, any advantage can make the difference between finishing fifth or on the podium,” said senior study author Andreas Bergdahl, an associate professor with the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Applied Physiology at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, in the press release.1

Cranberries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods in the world. They are particularly rich in polyphenols, having the highest polyphenol count of any fruit or vegetable in the American diet. Polyphenols (including proanthocyanidins [PAC], anthocyanins, and flavonols) are secondary plant compounds that can protect the body from harmful free radicals.1,2

Strenuous exercise can be a major cause of free radicals, and increasingly, athletes are using health supplements to reduce the damage, improve performance, and recover faster. Current evidence shows that cranberries can boost physical performance during rowing and cycling by reducing inflammation and prevent blood lactate formation, but there is little data on these ergogenic effects during running.1,2

In this study, investigators enrolled 14 high-level runners from the Concordia varsity track and field team to evaluate cranberry supplementation on running performance and recovery. The had participants in a 1500-meter and 400-meter time trial without supplementation at baseline. Participants then ran these distances a second time, where the only difference was receiving a large dose of cranberry extract (0.7 g/kg of body mass) 2 hours prior.1

For the next 28 days, the runners consumed a small dose of cranberry extract (0.3 g/kg of body mass), after which they ran yet another 1500-meter and 400-meter time trial.

“The 400-meter is shorter and of higher intensity and involves the anaerobic system [and] the 1500-meter uses the aerobic system but is shorter than what the athletes usually run,” said lead author Francis Parenteau, a PhD candidate with Concordia University, in the press release.

The 28-day supplement regimen boosted aerobic performance during the longer distance run, with runners increasing speed by 1.5%. Chronic supplementation significantly improved muscle reoxygenation rates (P = 0.04; η2 = 0.29), as well as reduced deoxygenation rates (P = 0.13; η2 = 0.20). Moreover, continuous supplementation mitigated post-exercise lactate response during the 400-meter race (P = 0.01; η2 = 0.27), but not the 1500-meter. 2

But supplementation is not entirely necessary to have better athletic performance, as athletes can also benefit by just eating more cranberries, Bergdahl concluded.1

  1. Cranberries provide runners with an all-natural boost, according to new Concordia research. Concordia University. News Release. March 19, 2024. Accessed on March 20, 2024.
  2. Parenteau F, Puglia VF, Roberts M, Comtois AS, Bergdahl A. Cranberry supplementation improves physiological markers of performance in trained runners. Physical Activity and Nutrition. 2023;27(4):8-14. Published online: December 31, 2023. DOI:
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