Boost Your Climbing Performance with Blackcurrants: The Science Behind Enhanced Endurance

    on February 22, 2024

    Outside Magazine associate editor and mountain athlete Laurel Walker reviews the CurraNZ research for climbing.

    As a climber, I’m constantly searching for things that will make even a small difference with strength, power, endurance, recovery, all of it. And, of course beyond all of these factors is the mental game which is a crucial part of any climber’s training, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

    For this blog, we will focus on the physical side of the sport. Every climber knows the feeling of being hopelessly pumped with no hope of a clean send (getting to the top of the route in one go without falling). You do everything you can to manage that pump (weakened/in pain in the forearms from the blood rushing to that area after trying hard); put in the training, map your route, take strategic rests, etc, and you still pump out and whip (fall). 

    What if there was a natural solution to combat internal fatigue mechanisms and refuel your muscle cells?

    Recent studies have uncovered the remarkable benefits of blackcurrant extract for enhancing climbing performance by increasing oxygen uptake and utilization within muscles.

    Let's delve into the findings and understand how this humble berry can revolutionize your climbing experience.

    The Science Behind Blackcurrants and Climbing Endurance

    Researchers conducted several studies to evaluate the impact of CurraNZ blackcurrant extract on climbing performance across different skill levels. In a study involving mixed-grade experienced climbers, those taking blackcurrant extract demonstrated an 8% increase in hang time compared to the placebo group.1 Moreover, 72% of participants experienced an average improvement of 21%. These results indicate that blackcurrant extract could significantly enhances sport climbing endurance, sustaining performance when others experience decline.

    Further validation came from a double-blind, randomized crossover study with intermediate-level climbers.2 After a 7-day intake of blackcurrant extract, participants showed faster muscle reoxygenation and improved uptake of oxygen from the blood following exhaustive forearm exercises. The benefits extended to elite climbers when the study was repeated, with a notable 37% improvement in forearm oxidative capacity and enhanced muscle reoxygenation by 5.3 seconds compared to the placebo group.

    Implications for Competition Climbing

    The significance of these findings becomes apparent when considering the minute margins that often separate elite climbers during competition. In climbing, even a one-second improvement in tissue reoxygenation can translate to a 0.7-point increase on the International Rock Climbing Research Association (IRCA) scale. Given that the top contenders in prestigious events like the International Federation Sport Climbing World Cup are separated by fractions of a point, a blackcurrant extract-induced enhancement of 5.3 seconds could provide a substantial advantage.

    The integration of blackcurrant extract into climbing regimens offers a promising avenue for enhancing endurance and performance. With scientific evidence supporting its ability to improve oxygen uptake and utilization within muscles, climbers of all levels can leverage the power of this natural supplement to reach new heights.

    Whether you're climbing at your local crag (a small rock climbing area, usually defined by a specific rock formation), or competing on the world stage, blackcurrants could be the secret weapon to elevate your climbing prowess and conquer new challenges with confidence. If you haven’t tried it, give it a try and you might just surprise yourself next time you get on your project (a route that is at or above your limit that you work on for weeks or months). 


    1.Potter, J.A., Perkins, I.C., Hodgson, C.I., Broadhurst, M., Howell, L., Gilbert, J., Willems, M.E.T. Effect Of New Zealand Blackcurrant Extract On Sports Climbing Performance. Proceedings 23rd Annual Congress Of The European College Of Sport Science Dublin/Ireland, 4-7 July 2018. 2017

    2. Fryer S, Paterson C, Perkins IC, Gloster C, Willems ME, Potter JA. New Zealand Blackcurrant Extract Enhances Muscle Oxygenation During Forearm Exercise in Intermediate-Level Rock Climbers. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2020 May 26;1(aop):1-6.