Whether you are a weekend warrior or someone who regularly competes in athletic competitions, you want to be at your best when running, cycling, lifting weights, or being involved in other forms of exercise. While eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest can help you achieve your fitness goals, many supplements on the market may enhance exercise performance.
If you’ve been following our blog, you probably know a bit about astaxanthin. Today, we’re going to dig into some recent findings on its potential effects on exercise. Wonder if it’s possible astaxanthin can increase your exercise performance? Here are some details you’ll want to consider.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is an antioxidant that is 100% natural and considered to be quite potent. Found in sea creatures such as shrimp, krill, and salmon (even found in flamingos!), astaxanthin is responsible for providing these and other animals with their reddish-pink hue. But most importantly, scientists have concluded it is a protective antioxidant that aids in protecting cells from breaking down, thus increasing oxygen capacity when exercising.
If you’ve never heard of oxidative stress, you’re not alone. In scientific and medical circles, this refers to the damage and death of cells that ultimately results in decreased cardiovascular strength, often leading to heart failure over time. However, some studies have suggested that those who take astaxanthin supplements may reduce oxidative stress and gain increased cardiovascular performance. This makes sense since clinical research has shown astaxanthin reduces bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol, boosts blood flow and circulation, and thus reduces oxidative stress in a person’s blood.
King of the Carotenoids
While astaxanthin is considered the “new kid on the block” in the realm of performance-enhancing supplements for athletes, it has already been looked at by many as surpassing CoQ10. For years, CoQ10 has been viewed as the front-runner for those seeking to boost their exercise performance. While there is still some debate as to which supplement is better, more research regarding astaxanthin looks to give it an edge.
For example, Gatorade sponsored a study of highly-trained competitive cyclists to see if astaxanthin did make a difference. In the study, participants who were given four milligrams per day of natural astaxanthin over four weeks were found to have times that were five percent faster than cyclists in the placebo group. Furthermore, cyclists who took astaxanthin also registered power outputs that were 15% higher than those in the placebo group.
While so far it sounds as if astaxanthin is the wonder supplement for athletes of all levels, some research has had conflicting results. For example, while the Gatorade study of cyclists did indicate some changes in speed and power levels, other research was not conclusive in terms of astaxanthin’s role in reducing fatigue, muscle soreness, and muscle damage.
In a study of male soccer players who took astaxanthin over 90 days, no significant enhancements were found to reduce muscle damage following competition. A similar study focused on muscle soreness found participants who took only astaxanthin did not have any greater reduction of muscle soreness four days after exercising than participants who only took safflower oil.
Energy and Metabolism
As for how astaxanthin can help increase energy during exercise and help a person’s metabolism burn calories as efficiently as possible, you can look to a research study involving swimming mice. Yes, you read that correctly.
In early studies, researchers found giving mice an astaxanthin supplementation allowed them to swim for more extended periods before becoming exhausted. Applying these findings to humans, scientists then conducted a double-blind placebo-controlled study of male participants. Some of them were given four milligrams of astaxanthin per day over six months. For the group that received astaxanthin, strength and endurance increased nearly 55 percent, while the placebo group changed at a rate of only about 20 percent.
While it appears as if overall astaxanthin has been shown to support various areas of exercise performance, it also has additional benefits that may indirectly aid in this area as well. Having been shown to raise cognitive performance in many adults, astaxanthin has also been linked to better vision by protecting the eyes from ultraviolet light that can damage the eye lens and lead to increased eye fatigue.
As with most scientific research, there is always room for discussion. However, at the moment, it appears that the benefits of astaxanthin regarding the support of exercise performance outweigh any data that may be inconclusive. Thus, if you want to gain an all-natural competitive edge, astaxanthin may be the antioxidant to consider.