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Evidence for the benefits of probiotic supplements in Sport

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the potential role of probiotics in sport, particularly for enhancing performance, improving motivation to train, reducing fatigue, and promoting recovery.

Studies have shown that athletes have a distinct gut microbiota profile compared to sedentary individuals, with higher levels of bacteria associated with carbohydrate and protein metabolism. However, intense and prolonged exercise can also affect the gut microbiota, leading to an imbalance in microbial diversity and composition. This disruption can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and cramps, which can impair performance and recovery.

Probiotics, particularly lactobacillus, have been shown to help restore gut homeostasis by improving the balance and diversity of the gut microbiota, enhance nutrient absorption, reduce inflammation, and modulate immune function in athletes. In addition, probiotics may also produce metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids that can benefit athletic performance and recovery. Several studies have investigated the effects of probiotics on exercise performance and recovery, with mixed results:

  1. Improved endurance: Some studies have suggested that probiotics may enhance endurance performance by improving energy metabolism and reducing fatigue. For example, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that athletes who consumed a probiotic supplement including Lactobacillus acidophilus,  for four weeks had a significant increase in time to exhaustion compared to a placebo group.

  2. Improved recovery: Probiotics may also aid in recovery by reducing muscle damage, soreness, and oxidative stress. For example, a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus reduced muscle soreness and improved muscle function in rugby players following a match. Similarly, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus casei improved recovery time and immune function in endurance runners following a marathon.

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