ASTAXANTHIN – Discussing the impact in sports nutrition (3/3)

Today the third and last part of my series on Astaxanthin & Sports. In the last 2 parts I discussed the basics of both
& of exercise as well as some recent studies on sports nutrition and mitochondrial function. 

In this part I will try and put the learnings from all studies in chapter 2 (and more) together the look at potential underlying mechanism. After all, it is the question that drives us… what is the matrix?  why would an antioxidant, like Astaxanthin, improve power, speed and endurance levels?

Let’s get started!


As was mentioned in the beginning of this blog exercise creates reactive oxygen species (ROS).  And, as could be expected from a strong antioxidant like astaxanthin, it decreases oxidation parameters, as can be shown in the figure below. Young dogs were repeatably trained over the course of 8 and supplemented with Astaxanthin. The protein oxidation level after the first training was set as 100%. Now, as can be expected from a well built up training the body starts to cope better with ROS and after 8 weeks protein oxidation is at 87% of the first training, but insignificant. Astaxanthin, however, did significantly reduce protein oxidation which might be a hint upon faster ROS recovery after training.


This is important for athletes: Faster recovery helps increase training frequency and this will lead to a more effective increase in fitness & muscle building. More interesting than the antioxidant effect is something that blew my mind…….

In the same study with the dogs the Astaxanthin group was shown to have a significant increase of nearly 10% ATP. Yes ATP! Energy!! This is critically important and confirmed also by other studies in rats and humans. NOW the impact shown in the randomized clinical trials with humans make more sense. With 10% more energy AND more training capacity (quicker recovery) astaxanthin gives a basis for a real UPGRADE in the metabolic process that is the foundation of our energy management. That should be interesting to all of us and of particulars interest in sports.


So what could be the mechanism behind the ATP increase?


Due to the molecular nature of astaxanthin, it can easily integrate into cellular membranes, also that of mitochondria. Studies have shown that inn mitochondria, astaxanthin has been shown to positively influence the electron transport chain, responsible for the ATP production specifically, complex III. It seems to function as an accelerator, a catalyst almost of the electron transport chain.

Next to this, the presence of the antioxidant directly at the site of free radical / electron production gives immediate protection. This thinking is summarized in the figure below.

The presence of the antioxidant directly at the site of free radical / electron production gives immediate protection

Exercise creates the need for more energy output, driving mitochondrial ATP production. With Astaxanthin uploaded in the mitochondrial membrane (takes 4-6 weeks of supplementation with 4-8mg), the electron transport chain produces 10% more energy – in all 3700 mitochondria – in every muscle cell. With the increased energy output, mitochondria will normally also have a higher ROS production leading to more stress to the body and longer recovery periods. With Astaxanthin at the site of ROS production it will work in coherency with the bodies own free radical defense mechanism and recover quicker.

From a biological perspective this absolutely makes sense, at least to me. It mimics perfectly how leaves produce their energy and how they protect their chlorophyll. In leaves chlorophyll is accompanied with (keto) carotenoids as violaxanthin to optimize photosynthesis. Could it just be that Astaxanthin & Mitochondria are the mammal equivalent to the system as seen in leaves? I believe so and it will not be a surprise to most readers that I personally and many around me take astaxanthin on a daily basis.

This ingredient has also been shown to enhance eye health, decrease (joint) inflammation and to be beneficial to the skin. I personally hope you enjoyed reading this report, know that any feedback is welcome! 

Do you want to find out more about Astaxanthin? its role in sports nutrition or other areas? Please contact us

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