Nicotinamide Riboside, which is marketed by the brand name of Niagen by an American pharmaceutical company, ChromaDex is a naturally occurring vitamin B3 metabolite that is known for its anti-aging properties. The compound majorly acts on the powerhouses of the cell, Mitochondria, and help improve energy generation.
Because of this action, Niagen is often promoted as a sport supplement that can improve endurance and strength.
In this article, we are providing evidence regarding whether or not Niagen improves performance of athletes. The article also summarizes the mechanism of action through which Niagen promotes energy production by mitochondria.
Mechanism of Action of Niagen
Niagen produces its effects by acting as a precursor of Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), which is an important component of many cellular pathways – which can be seen in athletes who’re on the paleo diet or do intense strength training. NAD+ plays significant role in energy production and metabolism and, therefore, increasing its level can help a person feel more energetic. In addition to this, NAD+ also acts a rate-limiting co-substrate for sirtuins, which are also known as longevity genes.
Niagen in Sport Nutrition — What Evidence Do We Have?
While mechanism of action of Niagen is quite clearly understood, its role as a sport supplement has not been investigated thoroughly. However, based on the scientific studies that suggest that increased levels of NAD+ can improve endurance by reducing oxidative stress induced suppression of aerobic respiration, we can assume that Niagen has a potential role in sports nutrition.
The findings of a study conducted in 2010 were published in a journal named ‘Nutrition’, which suggest that strenuous exercises result in reduced NAD+ levels, which ultimately result in impeding muscle performance due to fatigue. In order to evaluate the effect of an anti-oxidant supplement on NAD+ levels and muscle performance, the same study inducted 13 participants. The participants performed continuous progressive exercises and then received an anti-oxidant cocktail which improved NAD+ levels and muscle endurance.
In addition to this, the first ever clinical trial on Niagen suggests that the supplement effectively increases the level of NAD+ without producing any side effects. The trial was conducted by ChromaDex — the company that manufactures and markets Niagen. During the clinical trial, 12 healthy adult subjects received 100mg, 300mg, and 1 gm doses of Niagen. After supplementation, NAD+ levels were found to increase by 2.7 folds.
Experts believe that the findings of the first-ever human clinical trial of Niagen are quite impressive and another trial to investigate the effects of Niagen has already been initiated. No side effects were reported by the subjects who participated in the clinical trial. Therefore, one can suggest that Niagen is a relatively safer sports supplement compared to the rest.
While Nicotinamide Riboside is known to be an effective precursor of NAD+, its safety in human subjects us yet to be established. Therefore, athletes should use the supplement in suggested therapeutic doses and report any side effects immediately to their healthcare provider.