Probiotics and vitamin D3 could enhance aerobic capacity in MMA athletes

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages - Mixed Martial Arts Athletes / Aksonov
GettyImages - Mixed Martial Arts Athletes / Aksonov

Related tags MMA aerobic athletic performance Sports nutrition Probiotics Vitamin d3 Gut health microbiome

Combined use of probiotics and vitamin D3 benefits Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athletes by altering the diversity and composition of gut microbiota, improving intestinal permeability, and increasing exercise endurance, a new clinical trial has concluded.

The randomised placebo-controlled study was conducted with 23 male MMA athletes assigned to receive probiotics and vitamin D3 or vitamin D3 in isolation, concluding that combined treatment of probiotics and vitamin D3 may cause alterations in alpha and beta diversity and the composition of the gut. 

The authors from Gdańsk, Poland also observed an improvement in epithelial cell permeability and an extended time to exhaustion during exercise. 

They state: “These results highlight the positive impact of optimising gut health through probiotic supplementation on athletic performance and suggest a bidirectional communication between muscle cells and gut microbiota.” 

Significance ​ 

Moderate physical activity has been found to positively impact the gut microbiome​, particularly the diversity of bacteria species as well as bacteria genes involved in carbohydrate and protein metabolism​ and production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).

However, training overload may disturb the homeostasis among intestine microbes​, which is particularly evident in professional athletes, leading to issues like "leaky gut​" and inflammation​. 

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can increase catabolism (the breakdown of complex molecules), negatively impact regeneration processes, and lead to a decline in muscle function​.

Therefore, strategies aimed at enhancing regeneration and decreasing inflammatory response are important for professional athletes.

Probiotics have been studied​ for their potential to reduce inflammatory response and improve athletic performance​.

And previous research has shown a connection between the gut-muscle axis, inflammation, and athletic performance.

One previous study​ concluded that combined probiotics with vitamin D3 supplementation improved the lactate utilisation ratio, total work, and average power obtained during the anaerobic in MMA athletes.

However, as MMA training involves both aerobic and anaerobic components​, the authors aimed to investigate whether combined probiotics and vitamin D3 can modify the gut microbiome, influence inflammatory responses, and enhance aerobic capacity in professional athletes. 

The study ​ 

The four-week clinical trial was conducted with 23 male MMA athletes randomly assigned to either the probiotic and vitamin D3 group or the vitamin D3 group. 

The probiotic mixture composed of lyophilized strains of bacteria: Bifidobacterium lactis​ W51, Levilactobacillus brevis​ W63, Lactobacillus acidophilus​ W22, Bifidobacterium bifidum​ W23, and Lactococcus lactis​ W58.

As Vitamin D deficiency is a common occurrence in the Polish population​, the researchers supplemented both groups with 5 mL of Vitamin D3 supplement (in oil), with participants instructed to supplement 3,500 IU (3–4 drops) daily during the intervention period.

The trial employed a double-blind, placebo-controlled design and involved measurements of serum inflammatory markers, gut microbiome composition, epithelial cell permeability, and aerobic performance.

All study procedures were performed twice: before and immediately after four weeks of supplementation. 

During both evaluations, the athletes completed assessments of body composition, a three-day nutritional interview, and a cardio-respiratory fitness evaluation. 

Additionally, faecal and blood samples were collected before and after a sports test at both visits to assess specific parameters of inflammation.

After 4-week of supplementation, results showed a significantly lower concentration of calprotectin in the PRO + VIT D group (34.79 ± 24.38 mmol/L) compared to the value before (69.50 ± 46.91) supplementation (p = 0.030).

Results also showed augmentation of beta diversity after the intervention in the PRO + VIT D group (p = 0.0005) and an extended time to exhaustion to 559.00 ± 68.99; compared to the value before (496.30 ± 89.98; p = 0.023) after combined probiotic and vitamin D3 supplementation in MMA athletes.

The authors note that while the exact connection between gut microbiota, muscle function, and exercise performance remains unclear, the study demonstrated that alterations in the gut microbiome can enhance endurance capacity, possibly through microbial-encoded enzymatic processes that improve lactate utilisation and energy production.

They do however add that while participants were instructed not to make any changes to their existing eating habits, there was a lack of diet standardisation throughout the study. 

Source: Frontiers in Nutrition
“Combined probiotics with vitamin D3 supplementation improved aerobic performance and gut microbiome composition in mixed martial arts athletes”
Authors: K. Przewłócka, et al. 

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