Can what you eat enhance your performance as an athlete? This is the question that is being put under the microscope at the University of South Australia’s Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA). More specifically they are examining the impact of almonds and some dried fruits.

‘The bioactive components in almonds and some dried fruits may play an important role in maintaining peak fitness in elite athletes, and ARENA is putting the traditional snack foods through their paces,’ said lead researcher professor Jon Buckley.

‘We are running a study in cyclists examining whether bioactive components of foods can improve cycling performance and recovery.

‘Almonds are a rich source of arginine* and antioxidants, while grapes and cranberries are also rich in antioxidants and nitrates,’ professor Buckley says.

‘Studies show dietary nitrates and antioxidants improve endurance exercise performance by improving muscle blood flow and reducing exercise-induced damage to muscle.’

Elite cycling program

The study has been set up as a blind study with the first first twelve months looking at exercise performance markers followed by the next research stage of testing cyclists during a five-week trial. The trial will examine the increased benefits of combining almonds, grapes and cranberries and giving them to cyclists on a daily basis.

Volunteers will be put through an elite cycle training program while being provided with a daily dose of either mixed raw unsalted almonds, dried grapes and dried cranberries – known as AGC mix – or nut-free muesli bars.  

‘There is emerging evidence that the consumption of almonds and grapes may improve exercise performance, but there is a lack of information regarding any benefits of cranberries or the combination of all three foods,’ says professor Buckley.

The results of the two stage blind study will be revealed to researchers in the second half of the year when they will be able to combine the results and analyse the outcomes.

Adelaide cyclists

The study is still looking for male recruits based in Adelaide who are either cyclists or triathletes, are 18–50 years old, registered with a club or competing in professional, amateur or recreational races, or performing cycling training two or more times a week.

‘We feel like this is a fantastic opportunity for people to be involved in research that has the potential to make a real impact on exercise performance in a simple, natural way, while providing them with information on their cycling fitness through the measurement of parameters such as VO2 max that are often only available to elite level cyclists,’ said professor Buckley.

Anyone interested in participating in the study can email Prof Buckley at

* The amino acid arginine changes into nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is a powerful neurotransmitter that helps blood vessels relax and also improves circulation. Some evidence shows that arginine may help improve blood flow in the arteries of the heart (