Probiotics in sports nutrition: Ralf Jäger on using the right strain

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Probiotics in sports nutrition: using the right strain

Related tags Probiota americas microbiome Gut bacteria gut brain axis Probiotics athletic performance Sports Nutrition Summit USA

The probiotics expert highlights research on strain-specific benefits for athletes and performance.

Most people at the Sports Nutrition Summit 2020 raised their hands when Ralf Jäger asked if they took probiotics in the last 12 months. However, those hands quickly dropped when asked if they knew whether they were taking the correct strain.

“In athletic populations, certain probiotics strains can increase absorption of key nutrients such as amino acids from protein, and affect the pharmacology and physiological properties of multiple food components.” 

Anti-inflammatory effects of probiotics

According to a study​ Jäger co-authored, there are a variety of benefits for athletes who take probiotics. For instance, specific anti-inflammatory probiotic strains have been linked to improved recovery from muscle-damaging exercise.

His probe highlights other research, including a pilot study which examined 10 subjects using resistance-trained males supplemented with 20g of casein protein with or without Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 (BC30) for 8 weeks following a periodized resistance training program. The study, co-authored by Jäger,  suggested a trend in increased vertical jump power.

“Jäger et al speculated that the potential improvement in vertical jump performance may have been related to improved muscle recovery through gut microbial modulation. In a follow up study, 20 g of casein protein co-administered with B. coagulans GBI-30, 6086 (BC30) or a placebo in recreationally-trained individuals for 2 weeks increased recovery and decreased soreness after a muscle-damaging single-leg training bout.”​ 

The sports nutritionist and probiotics expert said over the last few years, developing areas for probiotic health has really taken off, and it's just getting started. 

“There’s a lot of research in the area of the gut-brain axis. Probiotics to improve mood, improving anxiety and helping with depression and those sorts of things. They’re being used for oral health, skin health, and also for athletes.”

Jäger said athletes have more diverse gut microbiota than those who do not exercise, telling the crowd in San Diego, “A person who goes to the gym and works out is twice as likely to take probiotics than a person who does not work out at all. So there’s an initial customer for probiotics for an athletic population.”

Ralf Jager at Sports Nutrition Summit

Indeed, Jäger’s recent research noted that several observational studies have investigated the difference in the composition of the gut microbiota between those who are highly physically active and a range of other populations. Reported results found a higher abundance of health-promoting bacterial species, increased microbiome diversity, and greater relative increases in metabolic pathways (e.g. amino acid and antibiotic biosynthesis and carbohydrate metabolism) and fecal metabolites (e.g. microbial produced SCFAs; acetate, propionate, and butyrate) are associated with enhanced fitness. 

The role of exercise in shaping the microbiome

Recent research provides further evidence for the impact of exercise on the gut. The study notes that elite runners have a greater abundance of Veillonella that suggests a metabolic advantage for endurance exercise by converting exercise-induced lactate to propionate. 

“Pre-clinical studies with Veillonella show a 13% increase in endurance performance. It is likely that the diverse, metabolically favorable intestinal microbiome evident in the elite athlete is the cumulative manifestation of many years of high nutrient intake and high degrees of physical activity and training throughout youth, adolescence and during adult participation in professional sports.”

Paving the way for further research

Preclinical and early human research has shown potential probiotic benefits for athletic populations. However, Jäger points out that these potential benefits require validation in more rigorous human studies and in an athletic population.

Looking ahead, Jäger predicts a mass market is on the verge of exploding, with a probiotic solution that is “in tune with the ‘fit’ consumer’s desire for natural supplements.”  

Source:​ J Int Soc Sports Nutr​ 

21 December (2019)

"International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Probiotics"

Authors: R. Jäger et al.  

Sports Nutrition Summit USA 2021

Join us next year to learn about the latest research from leading scientists, market analysts and come face-to-face with market leaders in San Diego. Delegates were able to benefit from various valuable networking opportunities, which allowed them to walk away not only with a whole wealth of knowledge, but armed with new connections to help build their business.

Don’t miss out in 2021. ​Click HERE​ to be the first to hear event updates.

Probiota Americas 

The leading annual event for the prebiotic, probiotic and microbiota focused food and pharma industries.

As part of the Probiota Series, the event will bring together professionals from across the globe to network, connect and engage whilst learning about the hottest topics in the industry.

Join us as we connect the business and science of the microbiome May 27 – 29, 2020.


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