Why do athletes need probiotic supplements?

The intestinal microbiota

The intestinal microbiota is presented as a key variable in sports performance. We know that there is a direct relationship between the gut microbiota and the consumption of probiotics. Science supports that a balanced diet and meals increases athletic performance in athletes. This association reveals that the intestine has the ability to modulate a large number of physiological reactions in our body. There are certain institutions that even affirm that the intestine is our second brain due to the large number of reactions that it is capable of causing in the body. In this blog post we have carried out an analysis of the studies that currently exist in relation to the consumption of probiotics and sports performance improvement. It is clear that a certain probiotic consumption can improve aerobic capacity, force expression and can even help improve certain health markers related to chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. We can conclude that a certain type of probiotic supplements can help improve performance in athletes and improve health for the general population.

The intestinal microbiota has positioned itself in the last decade as one of the most important health markers for the world population (1, 2). The set of microorganisms that reside in our intestine (the intestinal microbiota) is determined by the quantity and quality of our diet. The prevalence of foods high in fat, sugar and ultra-processed elements has caused a modification in the intestinal microbiota of the population and, therefore, a greater development of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (3) . On the other hand, physical exercise seems to have a certain relationship with a better intestinal microbiota. A systematic review of 18 studies has confirmed that there is a positive association between aerobic capacity and the composition of the microbiota (4). In the same way, probiotic supplements have been shown to be effective in regulating the microbiota.

Why do athletes need probiotic supplements?

Fig.  1 Jäger R. Obesity and body composition in man and woman: associated diseases and the new role of gut microbiota. Current medicinal chemistry. 2020;27(2):216-29. [Internet]. 2019 [citado 25 febrero 2020].

Regular athletes have the ability to modulate the intestinal microbiota quickly and depending on the diet they consume, their microbiota changes rapidly (5). The normal diet of an amateur or professional athlete has an energy value of approximately 2500-3500 kcal/day and is usually rich in protein. It is known that the microbiota affects energy metabolism and energy production.


Can performance be affected by microbiota?

In fact, the study by Rosenbaum, Knight, and Leibel in 2015 confirmed that performance can be affected by the composition of the gut microbiota (6). Likewise, the microbiota seems to have an interaction with weight gain or loss and body composition in men and women (7). Finally, Sheflin, Melby, Carbonero, and Weir, (2017) confirmed that diets high in protein and fat could have an impact on the intestinal microbiota (8). For all this, it is essential to maintain a balanced diet and good intestinal health to ensure that athletes perform better.

As we have previously commented, there are a series of elements called probiotics that help to improve the composition of the intestinal microbiota. This set of microorganisms modulates the levels of the microbiota, helping it to function properly. There is no great scientific evidence on the use of probiotics in athletes. Furthermore, a large part of the studies that have been carried out have not positively correlated the consumption of certain probiotics with the improvement of performance in athletes (9-11).

However, there does seem to be a relationship between the consumption of certain probiotics and the levels of tryptophan in the blood. Tryptophan is an amino acid that regulates serotonin production and can affect feelings of fatigue. The study by Strasser et al. (2016) (12) showed that the consumption of a set of specific probiotics could reduce the drop in tryptophan levels during exercise and, therefore, delay the onset of fatigue. In turn, Huang et al. (2018) (13) confirmed that the consumption of certain probiotics improved performance in a maximal stress test in healthy men and Salarkia et al. (2013) found an improvement in maximum oxygen volume in adolescent swimmers (14).

Why do athletes need probiotic supplements?

Performance improvements are not only related to aerobic endurance sports, but are also related to strength sports. The study by Georges et al. (2014) revealed a relationship between the consumption of probiotics and the improvement in vertical jumps (15). Subsequently, Jäger et al. (2016) tried to explain what relationship existed between both variables (16) by analyzing the effect of probiotics on recovery and post-exercise muscle pain. They concluded that the improvement could be due to the fact that the intestinal microbiota is a modulator of muscle damage and that, therefore, by reducing recovery time and muscle pain itself, performance will increase more quickly. Lastly, the consumption of certain probiotics also appears to increase maximal isometric strength and post-exercise range of motion (15)

In view of the aforementioned studies and taking into account the importance of the intestinal microbiota both in sports performance and in health, we can conclude that the consumption of probiotics could be beneficial for regular athletes. Their ability to improve both aerobic performance, performance in the expression of force and the behavior of our intestinal microbiota is vital. However, the scientific literature is not completely clear. There are multiple controversies in relation to the consumption of probiotics and sports performance. In addition, there is a wide variety of probiotic compounds, and each study administers the compound that interests you. There is no doubt that more studies would be needed to reach a concrete conclusion. If you want to keep on learning about health and sport performance keep reading in our blog.




  1. Quach D, Britton RA. Gut microbiota and bone health. Understanding the Gut-Bone Signaling Axis. 2017:47-58.
  2. Wang Z, Zhao Y. Gut microbiota derived metabolites in cardiovascular health and disease. Protein & cell. 2018;9(5):416-31.
  3. Gentile CL, Weir TL. The gut microbiota at the intersection of diet and human health. Science. 2018;362(6416):776-80.
  4. Ortiz-Alvarez L, Xu H, Martinez-Tellez B. Influence of exercise on the human gut microbiota of healthy adults: A systematic review. Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology. 2020;11(2).
  5. Mohr AE, Jäger R, Carpenter KC, Kerksick CM, Purpura M, Townsend JR, et al. The athletic gut microbiota. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2020;17:1-33.
  6. Rosenbaum M, Knight R, Leibel RL. The gut microbiota in human energy homeostasis and obesity. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2015;26(9):493-501.
  7. Avolio E, Gualtieri P, Romano L, Pecorella C, Ferraro S, Palma G, et al. Obesity and body composition in man and woman: associated diseases and the new role of gut microbiota. Current medicinal chemistry. 2020;27(2):216-29.
  8. Sheflin AM, Melby CL, Carbonero F, Weir TL. Linking dietary patterns with gut microbial composition and function. Gut microbes. 2017;8(2):113-29.
  9. Gill SK, Teixeira AM, Rosado F, Cox M, Costa RJS. High-dose probiotic supplementation containing Lactobacillus casei for 7 days does not enhance salivary antimicrobial protein responses to exertional heat stress compared with placebo. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2016;26(2):150-60.
  10. Michalickova D, Minic R, Dikic N, Andjelkovic M, Kostic-Vucicevic M, Stojmenovic T, et al. Lactobacillus helveticus Lafti L10 supplementation reduces respiratory infection duration in a cohort of elite athletes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2016;41(7):782-9.
  11. Sashihara T, Nagata M, Mori T, Ikegami S, Gotoh M, Okubo K, et al. Effects of Lactobacillus gasseri OLL2809 and α-lactalbumin on university-student athletes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2013;38(12):1228-35.
  12. Strasser B, Geiger D, Schauer M, Gostner JM, Gatterer H, Burtscher M, et al. Probiotic supplements beneficially affect tryptophan–kynurenine metabolism and reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in trained athletes: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(11):752.
  13. Huang W-C, Hsu Y-J, Li H, Kan N-W, Chen Y-M, Lin J-S, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus plantarum TWK10 on improving endurance performance in humans. Chin J Physiol. 2018;61(3):163-70.
  14. Salarkia N, Ghadamli L, Zaeri F, Rad LS. Effects of probiotic yogurt on performance, respiratory and digestive systems of young adult female endurance swimmers: a randomized controlled trial. Medical journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 2013;27(3):141.
  15. Georges J, Lowery RP, Yaman G, Kerio C, Ormes J, McCleary SA, et al. The effects of probiotic supplementation on lean body mass, strength, and power, and health indicators in resistance trained males: a pilot study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2014;11(1):1-2.
  16. Jäger R, Shields KA, Lowery RP, De Souza EO, Partl JM, Hollmer C, et al. Probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and increases recovery. PeerJ. 2016;4:e2276.


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