Anti-Inflammatory Probiotics Promote Muscle Recovery
Ralf Jäger, PhD, is the cofounder of Increnovo LLC (Milwaukee, WI), a scientific advisor to Ashland Inc. (Kearny, NJ) and the lead author of the upcoming International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) position stand on probiotics that is slated for publication later in 2019. Jäger says probiotic ingredients can serve a valuable role in sports formulations thanks to their ability to promote muscle recovery and reduce inflammation.
“Muscle damage is caused either through oxidative stress or through inflammation,” Jäger says. “Bifidobacterium breve BR03 is the leading probiotic strain for combatting inflammation. We [Increnovo] conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial to study the effect of probiotic supplementation on athletic performance, muscle damage, and recovery following muscle-damaging exercise. Three weeks of probiotic supplementation reduced baseline inflammation and improved performance and range of motion.”
The trial1 that Jäger cites followed 15 healthy resistance-trained men between the ages of 21 and 29 who received a daily dose of a probiotic containing 5 billion units each of Bifidobacterium breve and Streptococcus thermophilus, or a matching placebo, for 21 days while performing muscle-damaging elbow exercises. A 21-day washout period separated the crossover conditions. The study authors measured participants’ performance on an elbow flexor task, as well as their interleukin-6 levels. The study found that probiotic supplementation reduced baseline and post-exercise inflammation, attenuated post-exercise decreases in performance, reduced interleukin-6 levels, and improved recovery.
John Quilter, vice president and general manager of GanedenBC30 for Kerry Functional Ingredients & Actives (Mayfield Heights, OH), says that the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans has properties that make it ideal for post-exercise products that reduce muscle soreness and promote recovery.
“Generalizing about the benefits of probiotics is risky,” Quilter says, “because no two strains are the same—and in research, the results are always strain-specific. However, initial research found that [Kerry’s branded Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086, ingredient] GanedenBC30 enhances the body’s ability to efficiently utilize protein, making this strain an excellent ingredient for use in sports nutrition products.”
Quilter points to the results of an additional study2 on GanedenBC30, funded by the company, that examined the effects of a combination of a probiotic supplement and 20 g of casein protein versus casein alone. This placebo-controlled repeated-measures trial followed 29 recreationally trained men in their early 20s and measured their athletic performance and level of muscle damage following exercise. Participants engaged in muscle-damaging single-leg exercises and were evaluated for perceived recovery, muscle soreness, creatine kinase levels, muscle thickness, and blood urea nitrogen levels at one, two, and three days after exercise.
The study found that combination protein-plus-probiotic supplementation increased perceived recovery, reduced muscle soreness, decreased muscle damage, and prevented an exercise-induced reduction in athletic performance relative to just protein supplementation alone. The probiotic-plus-protein group showed a lower post-exercise increase in serum creatine kinase relative to the protein group, indicating less muscle damage. The study authors concluded that the combination of the probiotic and the protein reduced muscle damage and significantly improved recovery.