Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats


J. R. B. Dyck: 458 Heritage Medical Research Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2S2. Email:

Key points

  • • Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, has beneficial effects on cardiac and skeletal muscle function, similar to the effects of endurance exercise training.
  • • Combining resveratrol supplementation with exercise training augments the beneficial effects of exercise alone.
  • • We show that endurance capacity is enhanced in rats whose diet includes resveratrol during a 12 week endurance-training programme.
  • • Increased endurance was associated with increases in skeletal muscle force, cardiac function, and oxidative metabolism.
  • • Our results establish that resveratrol is an effective ergogenic aid that enhances exercise performance over exercise alone.


Abstract  Exercise training (ET) improves endurance capacity by increasing both skeletal muscle mitochondrial number and function, as well as contributing to favourable cardiac remodelling. Interestingly, some of the benefits of regular exercise can also be mimicked by the naturally occurring polyphenol, resveratrol (RESV). However, it is not known whether RESV enhances physiological adaptations to ET. To investigate this, male Wistar rats were randomly assigned to a control chow diet or a chow diet that contained RESV (4 g kg−1 of diet) and subsequently subjected to a programme of progressive treadmill running for 12 weeks. ET-induced improvements in exercise performance were enhanced by 21% (P < 0.001) by the addition of RESV to the diet. In soleus muscle, ET + RESV increased both the twitch (1.8-fold; P < 0.05) and tetanic (1.2-fold; P < 0.05) forces generated during isometric contraction, compared to ET alone. In vivo echocardiography demonstrated that ET + RESV also increased the resting left ventricular ejection fraction by 10% (P < 0.05), and reduced left ventricular wall stress compared to ET alone. These functional changes were accompanied by increased cardiac fatty acid oxidation (1.2-fold; P < 0.05) and favourable changes in cardiac gene expression and signal transduction pathways that optimized the utilization of fatty acids in ET + RESV compared to ET alone. Overall, our findings provide evidence that the capacity for fatty acid oxidation is augmented by the addition of RESV to the diet during ET, and that this may contribute to the improved physical performance of rats following ET.