Postbiotics may offer powerful and pragmatic approach for athletes

This content item was originally published on, a William Reed online publication.

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags postbiotics microbiome athletic performance recovery

The greater stability and shelf life of postbiotics, coupled with documented benefits for performance and recovery, may make postbiotics an attractive option for athletes leading strenuous lives with demanding travel schedules.

This was one of the conclusions of a recent systematic literature review of the science behind postbiotic supplementation and outcomes related to exercise performance and recovery.

Postbiotics are defined by the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit” (Salminen at al. 2021, Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol​).

Writing in Nutrients​, Dr. Chad Kerksick from Lindenwood University, Jessica Moon from the University of Central Florida and Dr. Ralf Jäger from Increnovo, LLC, report that seven different postbiotic strains have published studies in sports, including:

Weizmannia coagulans​ GBI-30 6086
Lacticaseibacillus paracasei​ PS23
Lactococcus lactis​ JCM 5805
Lactiplantibaccilus plantarum​ TWK10
Lactobacillus gasseri​ CP2305
Lactobacillus gasseri​ LG2809
Lactococcus lactis​ Plasma

The studies included in the review ranged in duration from 13 days to 12 weeks and provided data on 477 subjects. The potential benefits of the different postbiotics spanned a variety of exercise outcomes including “exercise performance, recovery of lost strength, body composition, perceptual fatigue and soreness, daily logs of physical conditions, changes in mood states and biomarkers associated with muscle damage, inflammation, immune modulation and oxidative stress”, the authors wrote.

Pro- vs postbiotics

Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA, Dr. Kerksick noted that only three studies so far have compared probiotic and postbiotic versions of the same strain, and these were for L. plantarum​ TWK10, L. paracasei​ PS2, and W. coagulans​ GBI-30 6086. The review reported that data from those studies indicated “comparable but different activity of the postbiotic compared to the probiotic."

Additionally, combination studies of postbiotics plus probiotics are lacking.

“It also stands to reason that as probiotics grow in popularity and are used in confidence by athletes, coaches and practitioners to support the health, training, and competitive desires of the athlete, so too will the popularity of postbiotics,” the authors wrote.  

Postbiotics offer technical benefits compared to probiotics because they are not live organisms, meaning they have greater stability and resilience. When these factors are combined with the lifestyles of competitive athletes, which are strenuous and include a lot of traveling, then the “advantages for postbiotic use in athletic populations seem realistic and may in fact be a powerful, pragmatic motivation for postbiotics to become more popular in athletes than their probiotic counterparts,” they added.

However, with the category of postbiotics still in its infancy, Dr. Kerksick and his co-authors said that more research is needed in multiple areas before drawing firm conclusions about if, how and where postbiotics could become a key part of an athlete’s regimen.

Source: Nutrients
2024, 16​(5), 720; doi: 10.3390/nu16050720
“It’s Dead! Can Postbiotics Really Help Performance and Recovery? A Systematic Review”
Authors: C.M. Kerksick et al.

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