Monday, December 15, 2014

Can Walnuts Increase Improve Your Exercise Performance?

                Regular walnut consumption is associated with several health benefits including healthy brain aging, improved cognitive performance and heart health. (1, 2, 3)  But, in case that’s not convincing enough to make you want to add a handful of walnuts to your diet daily, I have another reason. Walnuts may even the ability to improve exercise performance!


                Researchers of a study published in the Journal of Laboratory Animal Research, investigated the anti-fatigue effect of walnuts on the forced swimming capacity in mice. (4) A forced swimming test is essentially like dropping you into a water tank where you cannot stand or hold onto something. This type of test acts as both an endurance and a stress test. The mice in the experimental group were given either 300, 600, or 900 mg/kg a day of walnut extract, while the mice in the control group were only given water.  It turns out that the mice who were given walnut extract coped much better than mice in the vehicle control group.
                The increased swimming times by the mice given walnut extract are suggested to be in part due to decreased levels of lactate and ammonia. The accumulation of blood lactate and ammonia are known to cause fatigue and decreased exercise capacity. Therefore, it is suggested that the walnut extract exhibits an anti-fatigue effect. And, while all dosages of walnut extract resulted in increased endurance, 600 mg/kg appears to be the optimal dosage. The walnut extract dosage of 600 mg/kg a day was based on human equivalent of the recommended intake of raw walnut – which is about 42 grams per day, or roughly about a handful.
                Walnuts complement a wide range of flavors and they are great to add to just about anything. Try adding walnuts to your morning cereal, toss some in with your salad, sprinkle them on pasta, or even use them to make delicious dips and spreads!

Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a freelance writer on topics of fitness and nutrition, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Once Gavin becomes an RD, he will aim to achieve the distinguished Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential. Gavin can be reached at
1.       Willis, LM., Shukitt-Hale B., Cheng V., Joseph JA. Dose-dependent effects of walnuts on motor and cognitive function in aged rats. Br J Nutr. 2009; 101(8): 1140-4.
2.       Pribis P., Bailey RN., Russell AA., et al. Effects of walnut consumption on cognitive performance in young adults. B J Nutr. 2012; 107(9): 1393-401.
3.       Berryman CE., Grieger JA, West SG., et al. Acute consumption of walnuts and walnut components differentially acute postprandial lipemia, endothelial function, oxidative stress, and cholesterol efflux in humans with mild hypercholesterolemia. J Nutr. 2013; 143(6): 788-94.

4.       Kim DI, Kim KS. Walnut extract exhibits anti-fatigue action via improvement of exercise tolerance in mice. Lab Anim Res. 2013; 29(4): 190-5.