How enzymes and bioflavonoids can help with occasional muscle pain*

How enzymes and bioflavonoids can help with occasional muscle pain*

Sarcopenia is a natural consequence of aging, but losing muscle tissue is a major cause of functional decline and independence in older adults. Maintaining an age-appropriate fitness routine can help, but what do you do when clients shy away from exercise due to the discomfort it can cause?

The occasional pain that happens after exercise is common – but sometimes that discomfort is enough to deter individuals from resuming or adhering to a workout routine. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) happens most often after new or strenuous exercise. 

Athletes and well-conditioned individuals commonly deal with DOMS as they focus on goals like endurance and hypertrophy, but others may mistake it for an injury or a sign to quit. 

In addition to DOMs, free radical damage and oxidative stress can also be to blame for muscle pain – especially as we age. Certain enzymes and bioflavonoids have been shown to offer support for occasional muscle pain. Read on to learn more. 

When the body experiences oxidative stress, the immune system naturally responds with redness, soreness, stiffness or general discomfort. Producing antioxidants to quench free radical reactions is the body’s natural defense technique. Both enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants work to neutralize oxidative stress by breaking down and removing free radicals and interrupting their chain reactions.*1 

Proteolytic enzymes for occasional muscle pain

Proteases are responsible for protein degradation. This gives them the ability to digest the proteins that build up as cellular debris due to oxidative damage. Over time, that cellular debris can lead to occasional muscle and joint pain. 

A 2004 clinical trial published in the Journal of Sports Sciences examined 10 matched pairs of male participants. Each participant in the small cohort study ran for 30 minutes at a 10% downhill grade at about 80% of their estimated maximum heart rate. They either took a placebo or two tablets with proteolytic enzymes (including papain and bromelain) four times a day before the workout and three days after. The protease group recovered better, with less DOMS soreness and better contractile function, compared with the placebo group. 

In 2016, research published in the European Journal of Sport Science examined the impact of acute bromelain supplementation in competitive cyclists taking part in a six-day race. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 15 highly trained male cyclists supplemented with either bromelain or a placebo over the course of the race. Subjects had blood drawn on days one, three and six; researchers looked at markers including creatine kinase, myoglobin, lactate dehydrogenase and testosterone. While testosterone levels significantly dropped by the end of the race period, those taking bromelain maintained higher concentrations compared with the placebo group. The bromelain group also reported feeling less fatigued than the placebo group. 

These enzymes can be paired with antioxidant enzymes such as catalase and the bioflavonoid rutin. Catalase protects cells by breaking down peroxide into water and oxygen. 

Rutin has traditionally been used to help strengthen blood vessels and improve circulation. A 2018 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggested this antioxidant may help reduce cramping and leg discomfort, likely by improving capillary health and overall leg circulation.


Additional references 

1 Langseth, L. (1995). Washington, D.C . International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).