Resveratrol is a phenol that naturally occurs in a few plants. It is something of interest to bodybuilders because it may have oestrogen blocking, fat burning, and nitric oxide increasing properties. Resveratrol is also an interest to the medical field for a range of uses including, but not limited to, extending life, preventing cancer, protecting from heart disease, and treating diabetes. In fact, resveratrol is a heavily studied compound at the moment, and new discoveries are constantly being made. However, because research in this topic is still in its early days, much of the studies have been performed in animal models and in vitro (ie. in test tubes).
Resveratrol naturally occurs in the skin of grapes (and hence red wine), peanuts, mulberries, and in lower concentrations in cocoa (and hence chocolate goods).
Resveratrol has a similar chemical configuration to oestrogen, and can bind with oestrogen receptors. Thus, it may act as a natural oestrogen blocker. This phenomenon has been scientifically documented (Lu & Serrero, 1999). This has clear implications for bodybuilders, because high levels of oestrogen is a contributing factor to fat gain and muscle loss.
Nitric Oxide (NO) is responsible for vasodilation, and "the pump" experienced during a workout. Increasing nitric oxide may help to increase the intensity of a work out and may help in recovery. Consequently, many pre workout supplements contain potential nitric oxide boosting agents, such as arginine. One that has been somewhat neglected is resveratrol. A growing amount of evidence has suggested that resveratrol is able to increase NO synthesis or bioavailability (Nakata et al, 2012).
It has been reported that resveratrol is able to increase the amount of fat burned in obese humans when given at 150 mg/day for 30 days. In this study, subjects were reported to have experienced a shift in their energy metabolism, mimicking the effects of a calorie restricted diet (Timmers et al, 2011). This effect may help body builders shed more fat to achieve a more "cut up" look.
One of the best known functions of resveratrol is its antioxidant properties. This, along with its potential effect on increasing nitric oxide gives it promise in protecting heart health (Hung et al). The antioxidant properties of resveratrol can be applied to bodybuilding, as it may provide protection during intense workouts to aid in recovery.
Resveratrol is safe at recommended doses. However there have been reports of mild side effects at 2.5 g/day and above doses including stomach upsets (Brown et al, 2010). It is also important to know extremely very large doses (3g/kg body weight) over a 4 week period cased some kidney damage in rats (Crowell et al, 2004). This is the equivalent of a massive 240 grams for a 80 kg man.
It has been seen that doses of 150 mg/day is effective at burning fat. Keepining in mind that side effects may appear at 2.5 g, it is wise to keep below this limit. As a fat loss aid, it can be taken first thing in the day, and along with (or before) meals. As a means to improve performance, resveratrol may be taken half to an hour before training.
Resveratrol supplements can be found commercially. However they occur in a variety of different products, and there is no supplement group that is more than likely to have this ingredient than others. Be sure to read the label if you are after this ingredient.
Brown et al (2010), Repeat Dose Study of the Cancer Chemopreventive Agent Resveratrol in Healthy Volunteers: Safety, Pharmacokinetics, and Effect on the Insulin-like Growth Factor Axis. Cancer Res, 70: 9003-9011
Crowell et al (2004), Resversatrol-Associated Renal Toxicity. Toxicol Sci, 82: 614-619.
Hung et al (2000), Cardioprotective effect of resveratrol, a natural antioxidant derived from grapes. Cardiovascular Research, 47: 549-555
Lu & Serrero (1999), Resveratrol, a natural product derived from grape, exhibits antiestrogenic activity and inhibits the growth of human breast cancer cells. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 179: 297-304
Nakata et al (2012), Recent Advances in the Study on Resveratrol. Biol Pharm Bull, 35: 273-279
Timmers et al (2011), Calorie restriction-like effects of 30 days of resveratrol supplementation on energy metabolism and metabolic profile in obese humans. Cell Metab, 14: 612-622.