Exercise, like most things that are good for us, must also be taken in moderation; too much and the overstressed muscles start releasing lactic acid and other deleterious compounds. With age the problem becomes worse, resulting in more oxidative stress which counteracts the benefits of working out in the first place! A study comparing oxidative stress in young vs old mice given resveratrol showed how this wine extract helps protect against these changes. Using several serum markers for oxidative stress, a group from the Division of Exercise Physiology at West Virginia University School of Medicine found that resveratrol given orally for one week dramatically reduced these signs of muscle stress after exercising the mice by electrically stimulating certain muscles to standardize the amount of exercise. The effect was more dramatic in the aged mice but held for the youngsters as well.
Another research group from Japan looked at mice bred for accelerated aging (“senescence-accelerated prone”). In this case, they were looking at slowing age-related decline in physical endurance. Even with exercise, their exercise capacity slowed over the 12 weeks of the test, but with resveratrol supplementation it remained significantly higher. The researchers pinned the effect to improved oxygen metabolism in a muscle cell component called the mitochondrium. (Mitochondria are in all cells and believed to be important in red wine’s myriad anti-aging properties.)
Resveratrol isn’t the whole story though. Another wine polyphenol, quercetin, has been tested in humans for effects on exercise. On recent study a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover examination of maximal exercise tolerance, noted improvements in the quercetin group after only one week of supplementation. This affirms earlier studies. No doubt there are other compounds in wine and elsewhere that contribute to the benefits of exercise and diet, so for now the best advice is to hedge your bets and have a glass of wine, maybe after each workout.