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Recover like a Freak with Antioxidant Supplementation

Contributed by Byron Fergerson, MD and David Stuart, PhD

Post-Workout Recovery is key to Endurance

Endurance is the ability to sustain physical activity for prolonged periods. Running, cycling, swimming, nordic skiing and rowing are sports where performance is dictated by stamina and the ability to sustain high aerobic output. While training, nutrition, and genetics all impact an individual's stamina, our bodies build strength and endurance after exercise - during post workout recovery. In this article, we'll focus on the adaptation that occurs during recovery and introduce a class of plant-based micronutrients called flavonoids with tremendous potential to take the quality of your recovery to the next level.


 Research suggests that flavonoids, a specific group of antioxidant micronutrients found in plants like cocoa, tea, dark berries, and dark leafy vegetables, could play a pivotal role in recovery and building endurance.


Three Components of Recovery

Exercise is a stimulus that stresses our muscles. The post-workout recovery period is when the body responds to that stress, repairing muscle, restoring equilibrium, and adapting to become more resilient and more efficient. Those adaptations are where endurance and strength build. Our bodies are primed to recover immediately after exercise, so the way we refuel and recover is crucial to maximizing endurance gains. Many athletes focus on the quality of their training, and pay less attention to the quality of post workout recovery which is a missed opportunity to improve the overall trajectory of their fitness and endurance.

There are three components to post workout recovery:

  1. Time. We must allow the body sufficient time to restore homeostasis, or equilibrium after strenuous exertion. Inflammation is the body's response to the stress of exercise, and if we don't allow sufficient time for the body to mediate excess inflammation, it can accumulate and limit our ability to perform at peak or even reverse our fitness gains if persistent and chronic.

  2. Replenishment. High intensity or long duration endurance exercise depletes energy resources stored as glycogen in the the liver and muscle cells. Sweating depletes water and electrolytes that help regulate hydration, nerve and muscle function, and help rebuild damaged tissue after exertion. Amino acids in protein are needed to repair and grow new muscle fibers after exertion. Proper nutrition starting immediately after exercise can help athletes maximize recovery.

  3. Adaptation. The stress from exercise triggers a number of biological processes including inflammation that signal to our body it's time to deliver resources to muscles to help repair cells and grow new ones. In addition to strengthening that results from the repair and growth of new muscle fibers, adaptations inside cells occur, helping muscle become slightly more efficient and more resilient in the face of exercise induced stress. These adaptations are what contribute to improvements in strength and endurance while recovering.

Flavonoids, post-workout adaptations & endurance

Flavonoids are micronutrients in plants that give many fruits and vegetables their bright pigmentation. About 6,000 of these naturally occurring compounds have been identified. Many “Super Food” trends have hung their hats on the physiological benefits linked to this diverse set of naturally occurring compounds.

Natural cocoa and tea is rich in an even more specific subclass of antioxidant flavonoids known as catechins ("kat-uh-kins"). They have garnered attention for their potential to naturally support recovery and endurance-boosting adaptations in muscle cells.

Mitochondrial Function and Endurance:

At the heart of endurance lies mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the cellular powerhouses inside muscle cells responsible for generating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of muscle. During endurance exercise, muscle demand for ATP increases significantly, and mitochondrial function allows the body to meet this need.

Flavonoids have been demonstrated to influence adaptations in muscle cells that support mitochondrial function in several ways that contribute to endurance.

1. Enhancing Mitochondrial Biogenesis:

Flavonoids have been found to stimulate pathways involved in mitochondrial biogenesis, the process by which new mitochondria are produced within cells. One key player in this process is the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1 alpha (PGC-1α), a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis (1). Flavonoids, through their influence on signaling pathways, may activate PGC-1α and promote the creation of new mitochondria (2). For those without an MD or PhD, here's the translation... An increase in the population of mitochondria in muscle cells can enhance the capacity to produce ATP and potentially improve the amount of effort we can sustain. Endurance!

2. Improved Mitochondrial Efficiency: 

Flavonoids' impact on mitochondrial function extends beyond quantity. Research suggests that these compounds can improve the efficiency of mitochondrial respiration (3)—the process by which mitochondria produce ATP. Flavonoids' antioxidant properties play a role here, as they help combat oxidative stress within mitochondria that occurs when we exercise. By reducing oxidative damage, antioxidant flavonoids help maintain the integrity of the electron transport chain inside mitochondria, allowing for more efficient ATP production during endurance activities.

3. Enhanced Oxygen Utilization:

Another factor that can limit endurance is the body's ability to efficiently use oxygen (4). Flavonoids may positively influence our capacity to utilize oxygen by promoting vasodilation—the widening of blood vessels—which results in improved blood flow. Enhanced blood flow means more oxygen and nutrient rich blood reaching muscles, which not only may accelerate recovery, but is crucial to maintaining aerobic energy production in mitochondria during endurance exercise. Improved oxygen delivery translates to delayed fatigue and improved endurance capacity.

5. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: 

Endurance exercise, especially at high intensities, can induce inflammation and oxidative stress (5). Flavonoids' anti-inflammatory properties can help mitigate this response, minimizing tissue damage and aiding in post-exercise recovery (6). By reducing the extent of exercise-induced inflammation, flavonoids contribute to a more optimal environment for endurance training adaptation.

4. Delayed Muscle Fatigue:

Flavonoids' impact isn't limited to muscle cell mitochondria; they also influence the neuromuscular junction, the point where nerve signals meet muscle contractions. Flavonoids' antioxidant properties can reduce oxidative stress at the neuromuscular junction, potentially delaying the onset of muscle fatigue (7). This effect is particularly relevant in endurance activities where maintaining proper neuromuscular communication is vital for sustained effort.

Freak Shake High Performance Recovery

Catechins represent the unique origin of Freak Shake Recovery Drinks for endurance athletes. Over the last decade, a growing body of clinical data has emerged around flavonoids, and the sub-class of catechins. With so much available scientific evidence, we observed with increasing clarity how many biological systems involved in post-workout recovery and endurance conditioning are linked to the properties of these potent micronutrients. We wanted to build the Freak Shake brand around this science to offer athletes a unique approach to building endurance and strength, so we started with the idea that every serving of Freak Shake would be fortified with a functional serving of these special compounds. With 100mg of Epicatechin, each serving of Freak Shake contains an equivalent amount to about 2oz of natural cocoa powder (more than several heaping tablespoons, or what you'd need for an entire pan of brownies from scratch)

For athletes and individuals seeking to enhance their endurance, the incorporation of flavonoid-rich foods into their diets may help optimize their exercise and ultimately competitive performance.  But supplementation is required to get a functional dose into the system rapidly enough to be available within the crucial 30 minutes of post-workout recovery. And that's what makes Freak Shake a unique post-workout drink to compliment your endurance training.

You train freak’n hard. The level of commitment can seem absurd sometimes! With so much energy invested into doing what you love, why not try incorporating Freak Shake Endurance Fuel or our Grit Fuel Flavonoid Capsules into your sports nutrition and workout recovery program to explore these benefits for yourself?


  1. Lundby C, Jacobs RA. Adaptations of skeletal muscle mitochondria to exercise training. Exp Physiol. 2016;101(1):17-22. doi:10.1113/ep085319
  2. Craig DM, Ashcroft SP, Belew MY, et al. Utilizing small nutrient compounds as enhancers of exercise-induced mitochondrial biogenesis. Front Physiol. 2015;6:296. doi:10.3389/fphys.2015.00296
  3. Daussin FN, Heyman E, Burelle Y. Effects of (−)-epicatechin on mitochondria. Nutr Rev. 2020;79(1):25-41. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuaa094
  4. Taub PR, Ramirez-Sanchez I, Patel M, et al. Beneficial effects of dark chocolate on exercise capacity in sedentary subjects: underlying mechanisms. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial. Food Funct. 2016;7(9):3686-3693. doi:10.1039/c6fo00611f
  5. Nieman DC, Mitmesser SH. Potential Impact of Nutrition on Immune System Recovery from Heavy Exertion: A Metabolomics Perspective. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):513. doi:10.3390/nu9050513
  6. Goya L, Martín MÁ, Sarriá B, Ramos S, Mateos R, Bravo L. Effect of Cocoa and Its Flavonoids on Biomarkers of Inflammation: Studies of Cell Culture, Animals and Humans. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):212. doi:10.3390/nu8040212
  7. Liu Y, Shen X, Sha M, Feng Z, Liu Y. Natural bioactive flavonoids as promising agents in alleviating exercise-induced fatigue. Food Biosci. 2023;51:102360. doi:10.1016/j.fbio.2023.102360
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