Olive Oil May Help Improve Your Workout, According to New Research

The findings indicate that a by-product of this Mediterranean diet staple may deliver significant exercise benefits.

a side by side of olive oil in a bottle and someone running
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Olive oil is a widely consumed source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, offering several health benefits. Mainly, olive oil has been shown to help reduce cardiovascular disease risk by lowering cholesterol and improving blood vessel function, according to a 2020 study. Additionally, other research has found that the polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) in olive oil may lower the risk of cognitive decline in older adults. While olive oil can help improve your health, a by-product of olive oil produced when manufacturers process olives for olive oil may offer compelling benefits for recreationally active people.

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients found that a by-product called olive fruit water contains the same beneficial polyphenols as olive oil that possess antioxidant properties. What's more, the study suggests that olive fruit water as well as olive oil may improve respiratory factors at the onset of exercise while enhancing oxygen consumption and running ability during low-intensity activity. Read on to find out more.

What the Study Found

To arrive at these conclusions, nutrition researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge, England, examined the effects of an olive fruit water product called OliPhenolia on recreationally active people. Olive fruit water is a by-product created when producing olive oil that contains polyphenols with antioxidant properties. OliPhenolia is a sustainable and organic olive fruit water rich in phenolic compounds, particularly hydroxytyrosol.

"For a long time, I've been interested in the exercise benefits of polyphenols, such as those derived from cherries and beetroot. To gain similar benefits from olives, you would have to consume large quantities daily, which isn't realistic, so we were keen to test this concentrated olive fruit water," said lead study author Justin Roberts, Ph.D., associate professor in Health & Exercise Nutrition at ARU, in a press release.

This was the first research on olive fruit water's potential exercise benefits. The study included 29 recreationally active participants who consumed either OliPhenolia or a placebo over 16 consecutive days. Among the results, the research team observed positive effects on several critical markers of running performance, including respiratory function. Specifically, OliPhenolia consumption improved respiration at the onset of exercise, oxygen uptake and running economy during low-intensity activity. However, while no significant benefits were found in respiratory function during higher-intensity exercise, the participants perceived improved physical effort and immediate recovery following exercise after consuming olive fruit water.

"Like olive oil, [OliPhenolia] contains hydroxytyrosol, but this olive fruit water is a sustainable by-product. It's typically thrown away during the production of olive oil, and we found a company in Italy—Fattoria La Vialla, a biodynamic farm in Tuscany—who decided to turn this waste water into a dietary supplement," stated Roberts.

The ARU research team intends to conduct further research to corroborate these findings. Specifically, they plan to investigate whether olive fruit water can be used for marathon training and recovery and to test its effectiveness in reducing inflammation following exercise.

The Bottom Line

A study conducted by a research team at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge found that the consumption of OliPhenolia, a dietary supplement containing an olive oil by-product called olive fruit water, improved respiratory function, oxygen consumption and running economy in recreationally active people during low-intensity exercise. However, marginal benefits were observed in high-intensity physical activity. So while olive oil alone won't enhance athletic performance, drinking a dietary supplement containing olive fruit water may help you perform and recover from exercise. Olive oil also contains the beneficial antioxidants they examined in this study, so that's another way to boost your intake.

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