Probiotics for sports performance and recovery: ISSN outlines position in new paper

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / ChiccoDodiFC
© Getty Images / ChiccoDodiFC

Related tags Probiotic Probiotics athletic performance Sports nutrition

The science is still developing, but data does support a role for probiotics for athletes, according to a new position paper by the International Society for Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

An international team of scientists report that probiotics may support immune function and reduce the severity of respiratory infections and GI disturbance, while other strains may improve gut-barrier function, nutrient absorption, and recovery and performance in athletes.

The authors, who are led by Dr. Ralf Jaeger, FISSN, CISSN, MBA, Managing Member of Increnovo, note that the potential benefits are strain specific and so athletes and consumers should only use strains that are supported by clinical data.

However, the authors note that the number of studies examining the role of probiotics in athletic populations is still limited, and more data is needed around sports performance.

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (FAO/WHO).

“The authors are world-leading researchers”

Dr. Ralf Jaeger, FISSN, CISSN, MBA, Managing Member of Increnovo and lead author on the new paper, told NutraIngredients-USA that one of the highlights is the list of authors, which includes the world's leading researchers that actually did the research described in the position stand about how probiotics can be used in an athletic population.

“As for the industry, the paper gives clear guidance of what strains have clinically validated effects in athletes, and what those specific benefits are,” ​said Dr Jaeger. “It highlights strain specific effects, and effective doses. A marketing company can use the position stand as guidance for product development. The position stand also points to future developments in this area.”

Key takeaways

Summarizing their findings, Dr Jaeger and his co-authors note:

Probiotics 2 © Getty Images Dr_Microbe
© Getty Images / Dr_Microbe

1. Certain probiotics may increase nutrient absorption in athletic populations, notably amino acids from protein

2. Excessive training, stress, and disturb sleep can all depress the immune system Immune depression in athletes and increase the risk of respiratory tract infections. Studies support a role for specific probiotic strains to reduce the number of episodes, severity and duration of upper respiratory tract infections in athletes.

3. Intense, prolonged exercise, particularly in hot weather, may increase the permeability of the gut (so-called ‘leaky gut’), but specific probiotic strains may improve gut-barrier integrity and function in athletes.

4. Recovery from muscle-damaging exercise may be attenuated by specific anti-inflammatory probiotic strains.

5. Athletes should select probiotic products that list the genus, species, and strain of each live microorganism on its label and the quantity in colony forming units (CFU). These doses should match those reported in validation studies for a particular strain.

6. “Preclinical and early human research has shown potential probiotic benefits relevant to an athletic population that include improved body composition and lean body mass, normalizing age-related declines in testosterone levels, reductions in cortisol levels indicating improved responses to a physical or mental stressor, reduction of exercise-induced lactate, and increased neurotransmitter synthesis, cognition and mood,” ​wrote Dr Jaeger and his co-workers. “However, these potential benefits require validation in more rigorous human studies and in an athletic population.”

Sport Nutrition Summit 2020

Dr Jaeger will discuss the potential for probiotics in sports nutrition, from maintaining gut barrier function to aiding recovery at NutraIngredients-USA’s upcoming Sports Nutrition Summit in San Diego, February 3-5, 2020.

For more information and to register, please click HERE​.

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Volume 16, Article number: 62 (2019), doi: 10.1186/s12970-019-0329-0
“International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Probiotics”
Authors: R. Jäger, et al.

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