With seemingly everyone looking for an edge in sport these days, I get asked if bee pollen for athletes is a good idea or not on a weekly basis.
There are literally dozens of stories of high profile athletes using and benefiting from systematic bee pollen use.
It is reported that Muhammed Ali, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world consumed bee pollen regularly during his career.
The coach of the very successful Finnish track team from the 1972 Olympics, Antii Lananaki, claimed that most of the athletes on the team used pollen food supplements. She was also quoted as saying that "our studies show it significantly improves their performance with no negative side effects."
Finding reputable studies on bee pollen and human performance is difficult. For some reason, there haven't been many done at this point.
There have however, been several good studies done on the use of honey as a muscle replenisher and endurance enhancer.
A two year, double blind, placebo controlled study was reportedly conducted by a former Russian Olympic coach named Remi Korchemny. The study showed that bee pollen shortens recovery time after intense exercise. It also increased recovery time of heart rate and blood pressure. Runners were provided with either bee pollen or a placebo and asked to run laps at maximum intensity. The runners who were given bee pollen performed much better than the control group when asked to perform repeated intense efforts.
There are only two other studies I was able to find on bee pollen and its effect on human performance. Both of these studies were inconclusive as to whether or not bee pollen actually improves athletic performance.
You will find plenty of websites out there that claim bee pollen will 'increase your strength by 50%' or make you a super star. While I feel that bee pollen is an amazing super food , I would have to say that those claims are a tad outrageous. Nothing but hard work and talent will make you a super star and not even anabolic steroids will increase your strength by 50%!
Bee pollen will absolutely give you an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients, which are all important in achieving optimal health.
And it makes sense to think that the healthier you are, the more training stress you can handle and the quicker you'll improve at your chosen sport. It would also make sense that the healthier you are, the less you will get sick. As a result, less training time is lost due to illness and a greater volume of training is performed.
While the number of human performance trials on bee pollen are limited to say the least, the feedback and testimonials my family and I receive from athletes of all types in the Dutchman's Gold honey shop suggest that there is something to this.
My personal opinion as to why bee pollen seems to help athletes can be summarized with the following statement:
A healthy athlete is a better athlete.
Bee pollen helps keep you healthy. You can't train if your sick or injured. Furthermore, it is a fact that amino acids help athletes recover from intense workouts.
Bee pollen just so happens to be 25% protein! It also happens to have a very high ORAC score (anti-oxidant levels). We know antioxidants protect muscles from the oxidation that occurs with intense training. Could it be that bee pollen helps you recover faster?
We also know that through sweat, you lose large amounts of minerals. Replacing these lost minerals, especially the key electrolytes magnesium, potassium and sodium, during and after exercise is of supreme importance. Both magnesium and potassium are found in pollen in healthy doses.
It only makes sense....
See my What is Bee Pollen page for the complete nutritional breakdown of bee pollen.
I train virtually seven days a week either with weights or by running or on some form of cardio machine.
While some would argue that a seven day a week training schedule is extreme, I find that I actually prefer this amount of volume. It keeps me in great shape year round and I am able to manage my weight within a couple of pounds. I never train flat out or at high intensities for prolonged periods of time (periodization) and mix in lower intensities to optimize my recovery.
I run a 30 km road race (the Around the Bay) each year and have increased my time each year to the point that I am on the verge of qualifying as one of the top women. And I have been able to do this running only once or twice a week. By the way, honey makes a great endurance 'gel'. I got the idea from these university studies.
While I follow a very balanced and comprehensive nutritional program, I attribute some of my ability to handle such a high volume of training to my intake of bee pollen and raw honey as well as other products from the hive.
And while my own experience is certainly not a double blind placebo controlled study done at a prestigious university, I feel like my nutrition background enables me to offer an educated opinion at the least on how I feel bee pollen contributes to my health and vitality.
So, is bee pollen for athletes? The answer is yes, if you equate better health with being a better athlete, then bee pollen is for athletes of all ages and all sports!
There are many bee pollen products on the market, many of which are very poor quality with very suspect ingredients from suspect countries. I regularly get solicited by companies from all over the world selling cheap, low grade bee pollen that is not fit for human consumption. I use and only recommend Dutchman's Gold Bee Pollen. You can find them here.
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