April 04, 2020 at 12:12PM
Bouncing back from a hard workout can be tough. Aching, sore muscles and lower-than-usual energy levels can make it hard to get back to your regular exercise routine. If you’re not sure where to turn at that point, the supplement nicotinamide riboside (often called simply NR) may support your fitness goals and recovery.* NR isn’t as well known as other fitness and recovery aids, but research has shown there’s definitely something to it. Here’s how NR can help the next time you need a post-workout boost.
What is nicotinamide riboside?
Nicotinamide riboside is a form of vitamin B3 that was only recently discovered by scientists. When you take NR, your body converts it into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme that exists in all cells and factors into energy metabolism and your ability to maintain proper cell functioning, says Wally Taylor, M.D., a functional medicine physician at Texas Integrative Medicine.
NAD+ also plays a vital role in your energy levels: NAD+ is “extremely important” for the mitochondria in your cells to make energy for your body, Taylor says. NAD+ declines as you age and those declining levels are thought to drive the aging process, as well as less energy.
How can NR help with fitness and recovery?
This goes back to your mitochondria and the impact NAD+ has on it, Taylor says. Mitochondria turns the food you eat and the oxygen you breathe in into energy, he explains. Again, healthy levels of NAD+ can help maintain your mitochondria’s ability to function well to give you energy. And, taking a supplement like NR can help support your natural NAD+ levels to keep your mitochondria functioning well, Taylor says.*
NR and NAD+ also influence the sirtuins in your body, a class of proteins that help protect your cells from age-related decline, Taylor says. Research has found that NAD+ increases the activity of one particular sirtuin, SIRT1, which may cause new mitochondria to form and extend the lifespan of your mitochondria. All of that can ultimately add up to you having more energy, Taylor says.
As of yet, most of the studies tying a connection between NR and fitness have been done on mice, so we can’t draw hard conclusions as of yet, but the results are promising.*
One study showed that increasing levels of NAD+ also may help improve muscle function as you age. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, found that mice that had depleted levels of NAD+ had a “dramatic” drop in their muscle strength and endurance on a treadmill, implying that NAD+ is a critical component of strength and endurance.*
In another study, researchers used mice whose genes were altered so their muscle tissue contained only 15 percent of the normal amount of NAD+. They then measured muscle strength and endurance, which was pretty low. But after giving the mice NR-enriched water for just a week, their exercise capacity was that of a normal, healthy mouse.* And in one additional mouse study, supplementation with NAD+ precursors led to better supported DNA repair and health of muscle tissue within the first week—to the point where researchers couldn’t tell the difference between the tissue of a mouse that was two years old versus a mouse that was four months old.*
“NR and NAD+ is integral for physical performance, mental performance, and recovery after exercise or any form of stress,” Taylor says.*
How can you get NR?
NR can be found in trace amounts in milk, yeast, and beer, but Taylor says it’s not enough to make a difference. Instead, he recommends taking a supplement. In clinical trials, NR supplements have been well-tolerated at doses as high as 1,000 mg per day, suggesting that it’s likely safe for most people.
What else do you need to know?
Again, research on NR is still in its infancy, and there aren’t a lot of good studies on how NR can impact fitness and recovery in humans. So if you’re planning to try NR for workout support, it’s still a good idea to take it alongside proven lifestyle tactics for fitness and recovery as well.
These are the main lifestyle factors to focus on for fitness and recovery, says Albert Matheny, M.S., R.D., CSCS:
“Pre- and post-workout nutrition makes the biggest impact for the most people,” Matheny says. He says people often need protein after “any significant workout,” and sometimes carbohydrates to help with recovery.
Making sure you get all of the nutrients your body needs is also critical, Taylor says. “I often recommend taking seed oils—flax seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seed oil can help maximize cellular health and energy levels,” he says.
The bottom line:
NR, along with other lifestyle adjustments, could help aid fitness and recovery. Still, more research needs to be done before experts can definitively say exactly how supplement works to aid fitness, and to what extent. That being said, the results are very promising.*