Vigorous long-distance running can increase oxygen consumption, ischemia-reperfusion injury, white blood cell activation, inflammation, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. It can also could lead to microtrauma, which triggers inflammatory responses, and the accumulative effects could lead to muscle injury and dysfunction.
Some studies on probiotics have demonstrated the benefits of lactobacilli probiotic strains in sports science. Specifically, L. plantarum TWK10 has been found to improve exercise capacity, L. rhamnosus IMC 501 and L. paracasei IMC 502 can reduce oxidative stress, and B. coagulans GBI-30, 6086 can reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and increase recovery.
Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 isolated from fu-tsai, a traditional Taiwanese fermented vegetable food product, has been found to provide a number of health benefits, including: anti-inflammatory and immune system regulatory effects, decreasing muscle damage, oxidative stress, and inflammatory symptoms.
However, there has been no previous study investigating whether long-term PS128 consumption in recreational runners decreases the level of muscle damage and promotes the recovery of exercise capacity after a half marathon (HM).
Therefore, the current double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, counterbalanced, crossover trial was carried out to compare the recovery of exercise capacity and level of muscle damage in recreational runners taking a placebo or PS128, after a HM.
Eight recreational runners (four male and four female, aged 23-30) were recruited. Participants took two capsules (3 × 1010 CFU/capsule) of PS128 each morning and evening before meals for four weeks as the PS128 treatment (LT, n = 8), or they took 2 capsules of placebo for 4 weeks (PT, n = 8) in the control. After HM, an exercise capacity test, a blood test, and a 3-month washout period were conducted. The nutritional supplements taken by LT and PT were exchanged and taken for 4 weeks, and the HM, exercise capacity test, and blood test were performed again.
The muscle damage caused by EIMD could last for approximately 96 h. Thus, in order to observe the period of return to play, in both treatments, an exercise capacity test and blood sampling were performed before nutritional supplement administration (baseline), 48 h before HM (pre), and 0 h (0 h post), 3 h (3 h post), 24 h (24 h post), 48 h (48 h post), 72 h (72 h post), and 96 h (96 h post) after HM.
The exercise capacity assessment included lower extremity muscle strength, anaerobic power (except for 0 h post), lower extremity explosive force, and aerobic capacity (only at pre, 24 h post, and 96 h post) tests. Blood samples were used to analyze the biomarkers for muscle fatigue, muscle damage, oxidative stress, and renal injury.
There was no significant difference between PT and LT in HM performance. However, recovery of exercise capacity after HM was significantly greater in the probiotic group compared to the placebo group at three h, 24 h, 48 h, 72 h, and 96 h post stages.
The countermovement jump height in the placebo group was significantly reduced after HM and lasted for 24 h, but in the probiotic group it did not change at all. In the absence of a significant improvement in exercise capacity indicators, the maximum muscle strength and explosive power in the probiotic group after HM did not significantly decrease. The researchers say this result highlights the need for further investigation of the mechanism of influence from changes in blood indicators.
After HM, those who had taken the probiotic had higher superoxide dismutase (a group of enzymes that provide cellular defense against reactive oxygen species), lower muscle damage indices (measured by myoglobin and creatine phosphokinase) and their blood urea nitrogen recovered in 24 h.
The authors note that the small sample size is a major limitation in this study but still believe the results are noteworthy thanks to the large number of sampling time points.
The report concludes: "In conclusion, PS128 supplementation was associated with an improvement in muscle damage, renal damage and oxidative stress caused by HM through microbiota modulation and related metabolites, but not in exercise capacity, thus neutralizing the ROS caused by exhaustive and prolonged exercise.
"Probiotics may represent an effective supplementation for athletes to establish an appropriate antioxidant barrier for preventing dangerous levels of oxidative stress. They could also shorten the return to play due to the consumption of PS128 instead of NSAIDs."
Fu, S.-K.; Tseng, W.-C.; Tseng, K.-W.; Lai, C.-C.; Tsai, Y.-C.; Tai, H.-L.; Hsu, C.-C.
"Effect of Daily Oral Lactobacillus Plantarum PS128 on Exercise Capacity Recovery after a Half-Marathon"