Carotenoids reduced markers of muscle damage post-exercise in new study

Oct 9, 2018

Supplementation with a tomato complex containing the carotenoids lycopene, phytoene, and phytofluene may attenuate muscle damage from exercise. This finding stems from a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism1 and funded by Lycored (Secaucus, NJ), which supplies the tomato complex.

In the study, 20 male and female runners between the ages of 22 and 54 were randomized to receive either the tomato complex or placebo for four weeks. At the end of four weeks, subjects were then subjected to a two-hour run. Blood samples and delayed onset muscle soreness ratings were taken prior to and after the four weeks of supplementation, and then immediately after the two-hour run, then one, 24, and 48 hours after the run. There was then a crossover period following a two-week wash-out period in which the placebo group switched to receiving the tomato complex and the treatment group received placebo.

Results showed that while markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, and ratings of muscle soreness did not differ significantly between the treatment and placebo group post-exercise, levels of serum myoglobin were significantly different between the groups, with lower levels in subjects who took the tomato complex post-exercise. The researchers explain that myoglobin is an iron- and oxygen-binding protein found in muscle tissue that is translocated to the blood compartment following acute muscle injury from intense exercise, making it a sensitive marker for muscle injury. Additionally, four weeks of supplementation with the tomato complex increased plasma carotenoid levels by 73%.

“Optimizing muscle recovery, balancing muscle damage, and enhancing muscle resilience to the stress associated with exercise are beneficial for both athletes and casual exercisers,” said Karin Hermoni, PhD, head of science and nutrition at Lycored, in a press release. “This study utilized a modest dose of tomato carotenoids for a relatively short time period. These promising initial results are an important step, opening the door for additional studies to further explore the role of carotenoids and tomato phytonutrients in complementing an active lifestyle and allowing people to optimize the benefits of exercise.”


1. Nieman DC et al. “Effect of 4-Week Ingestion of Tomato-Based Carotenoids on Exercise-Induced Inflammation, Muscle Damage, and Oxidative Stress in Endurance Runners.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, vol. 28, no. 3 (2018); 266-273