Last updated: Sep 23, 2010
exercise-bike
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I wish I were a naturally active, athletic kind of woman—then maybe it wouldnt be such a constant battle for me to stay in shape.


Im thrilled that Ive finally managed to drop 30 pounds or so, and that Im getting myself to the gym three times a week. But Im not fooled into thinking my life has totally changed: Im still addicted to my former overeating, indolent ways, and any minute now, I could fall right off the wagon. Some days, staying on that exercise bike for a full 45 minutes seems like an impossible thing to do.

If only there was some magic pill I could take to make this easier, I think to myself when Im 20 minutes or so into the pedaling.

Well, maybe there is.

A new study from the University of South Carolina crossed my desk this morning. Researchers there discovered that an antioxidant compound found in fruits and vegetables can significantly boost your endurance and aerobic fitness after just one week—making it easier for people to exercise a little longer.

The supplement is quercetin, and study author Mark Davis, PhD, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolinas Arnold School of Public Health says, “This is great news for those who often think theyre too tired to exercise.” People like me, he means.

Davis and his team first gave 12 student volunteers in their 20s (all fit but not considered “highly trained”) an exercise test to determine their VO2 max status, a measure of aerobic fitness. Then, half the volunteers got 500 milligrams of quercetin twice a day (mixed in Tang, to mask the supplements taste); the other half got Tang plus placebo.

After a week, the students were tested again—and those whod taken quercetin were able to exercise about 12 minutes longer than theyd been able to before they took the supplement.

I did the math and figured out that by adding 12 minutes to my exercise-biking routine three times a week for a year, I could lose an additional 4 pounds. On my 51” frame, losing even a little chunk like that could be the difference between a convex or concave (heck, Id settle for nearly flat) tummy.

What is this stuff?
Even if youre not looking for a magic bullet to make exercising easier, you might want to consider taking a daily dose of quercetin. Its an antioxidant that gobbles up the cell-damaging particles known as free radicals, it acts as antihistamine and could improve allergy symptoms, and it may protect against heart disease, according to the excellent University of Maryland Medical Centers alternative medicine database.

Im heading out to pick up a bottle now—you can find quercetin in any health-food store and many drug stores. Fingers crossed that a week from now, Im spinning for an extra 12 minutes without even noticing it!