A new supplement claims to help women run faster

Would you take a supplement if it helped you run faster? (Photo: Getty Images)
Would you take a supplement if it helped you run faster? (Photo: Getty Images)

People take vitamins and supplements to improve their health. And while most people know it’s unlikely that a supplement will change their life, they generally expect it will give them some kind of a boost, even if it’s imperceptible.

But a new supplement developed by a professor at Ohio State University claims that it can make you run faster and bike harder — and it has research to back up those claims. A new study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that women who took a special supplement saw their three-mile run times drop by almost one minute on average, and after continued use of the supplement they were also able to go farther on a stationary bike in 25 minutes. In a third test, they were able to step on and off a bench more often in a set time frame once they started supplement use.

The study was small — it included only 28 women, half of whom took the supplement, while the other half took a placebo — but the results were surprising. The supplement group had their three-mile run time drop from an average of 26.5 minutes to 25.6 minutes, they covered an average of 6.5 miles on a stationary bike in 25 minutes versus six miles at the start of the study, and they did 44 steps in the stepping test while taking the supplement compared with the 40 they took before they took the supplement. The placebo group, on the other hand, did not see these changes. In a follow-up experiment with 36 women that tried to reproduce the first findings with a lower dose of the supplement, the participants ran 41 seconds faster on average.

Lead study author Robert A. DiSilvestro, PhD, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that while he expected some improvement in the participants’ athletic performance, the results were more significant than he thought. “I was surprised by the degree,” he said.

The supplement, which DiSilvestro calls Vionica, is largely made up of five ingredients: forms of iron, copper, and zinc along with carnitine (which is derived from an amino acid) and phosphatidylserine (which is made up of fatty acids and amino acids). Iron is involved in releasing energy in your body, and copper can help with the process of energy release, DiSilvestro explains, adding that women are often low in both nutrients. “Zinc just does everything,” he says. Carnatine helps your body use fat for energy when you exercise, and phosphatidylserine works on your nervous system to affect your perception of fatigue, he says. “They all complement each other,” DiSilvestro says.

It’s a little odd to think that a supplement can enhance your athletic performance this much, but Beth Warren, RDN, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that it’s possible. “Micronutrients are essential for any aerobic activity,” she says. “Therefore, it would make sense that if proper supplementation was utilized, improvements in these sports would occur.”

Still, while the findings are statistically significant, it’s unlikely that the supplement will make you a super athlete out of nowhere, Albert Matheny, RD, nutritional adviser to Promix Nutrition and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Also, he says, the improvement is bound to be less extreme in people who are already serious athletes. “There can and will be a significant amount of variability with not very trained individuals in a performance test like this,” he says. However, women are often deficient in nutrients like iron, and adding more to their diet could potentially improve athletic performance, Matheny says.

It’s possible to get these nutrients from food but isn’t always easy, especially if you avoid animal products or eat a high-carb, low-fat, or low-protein diet, Warren says. Hence, the supplement.

Vionica isn’t available for sale at the moment, but DiSilvestro says he hopes to make it available for pre-order via Indigogo within a few weeks.

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