ASTAXANTHIN – Discussing the impact in sports nutrition (2/3)

Last week I discussed some of the basics of both astaxanthin as well as of exercise and the role mitochondria. As promised, this week we will focus on some recent studies that have come out on sports nutrition and, of course, mitochondrial function. I purposefully did not include any references to the studies. If you are interested in receiving the original studies that have been the input for this blog, just let me know. And yes, also when you are a “competitor” or see yourself that way.


As it turns out, the amount of astaxanthin found in muscle tissue shows a remarkable connection with the ability to perform. In animal studies in which mice were trained to run on a treadmill, the group fed natural esterified astaxanthin was able to run 80 minutes until exhaustion, double that of control or free forms of Astaxanthin.

Table that shows the amount of astaxanthin found in muscle tissue shows a remarkable connection with the ability to perform.

Although animal studies are helpful I believe that studies with humans are the only way to go.  Runners, taking 12mg of astaxanthin per day for 8 weeks during their training, showed findings in line with those in the Mice. After 8 weeks, the control group running on aerobic threshold (AeT) had a heart rate of 153, similar to at the start. The group taking Astaxanthin, however, significantly lowered their heart rate (-15 hearts beats). Similar improved were shown on anaerobic threshold (AT). Every marathon runner would love that I suppose!

Table that show significant changes in heart rate during performance due to astaxanthin

The runners from the above study were amateurs, so how will high-level athletes, already on top of their game respond to these interventions?

In a 2015 study, semi-professional cyclists were asked to perform a 20km time trial in the morning without any breakfast, or doping 🙂 Times were recorded and then they were divided into a placebo group and 4mg / day Astaxanthin group. Just four weeks after the first time trial they went on to perform the second with the same starting conditions. Average time for the control group improved with 19s and the power with 1,6W, both insignificant. The astaxanthin group, however, improved a staggering 121 seconds and 20W in power, highly significant changes. Highly recommended for my favorite cyclist Tom Dumoulin this summer!

Improvement in performance of semi-professional cyclists after 4 weeks of astaxanthin

These remarkable effects are also seen in different age groups. Elderly (65+) are in danger of losing muscle mass, also known as sarcopenia. A lifestyle with exercise & protein rich meals have shown to prevent muscle mass loss and even be able to rebuild. When a group of 65-82 performed weight training during four months Astaxanthin was shown to increase power & muscle mass 7x more than controls as shown in the figure below. Can all grandpa’s please go to the gym as of today?

Increased power & muscle mass after 4 months of training with astaxanthin

Big question is, why would an antioxidant, like Astaxanthin, improve power, speed and endurance levels? This we will discuss in the next blog – so stay tuned!


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