SPIRULINA ON HEALTH, ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AND RECOVERY

Microscopic view of spirulina (unstained)
Microscopic view of spirulina

Spirulina is a type of microscopic bacteria, often referred to as “blue-green microalgae.” It grows naturally in alkaline lakes or commercially produced in controlled ponds.

Widely used in medicine and the food industry is known for its high nutrient content, including 60-70% protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. It is claimed to be a rich source of vitamin B12, antioxidant carotenoids and minerals (iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium).

Thus, spirulina is used as a dietary supplement, with various health benefits reported, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating properties.

A recent review studied the available bibliography. We will briefly explain its main findings and the potential benefits of its use in athletes.

Supplement tablets
Lyophilifized power

Effects of spirulina in health

  1. Antidiabetic: spirulina is suggested to help manage diabetes by improving blood lipid profiles, and parameters like blood glucose and insulin sensitivity.
  2. Antianaemic: spirulina, rich in iron, is proposed to be beneficial in treating anaemia, with studies showing increased haemoglobin and iron levels.
  3. Anticancer: spirulina is believed to have antioxidant and immune-modulating properties that may contribute to cancer prevention. Some studies showed the regression of precancerous lesions and inhibition of tumours.
  4. Antiviral: spirulina may inhibit the replication of various viruses, with studies suggesting a decrease of viral load in HIV cases.

Use of spirulina in athletes

  1. Supplementation. Athletes, especially with inadequate nutrition, may benefit from Spirulina due to its rich nutritional content. Studies suggest positive effects on body composition, aerobic fitness, strength, and power. Results varied depending on training status, with best results in untrained or moderately trained individuals. In highly trained athletes, results are less consistent.
  2. Effects on intense exercise. Intense exercise leads to exercise-induced muscle damage due to inflammation and oxidative stress. Spirulina’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are suggested to be beneficial. Supplementation can lower markers like lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), creatine kinase (CK), and interleukin 6 (IL-6) after exercise, benefits that would prevent and speed up recovery, although not all studies agreed on this point.
Main effects of spirulina on human body (adapted from Chaouachi et al. 2023)

Conclusions

  • Spirulina is shown as a natural supplement, with various health benefits due to its rich nutritional content. However, its effectiveness varies depending on health status and individual characteristics.
  • Regarding Spirulina´s use in athletes, it shows potential in improving body composition, aerobic fitness, strength, and power performance.
  • More studies should be needed, with larger groups and standard methodologies, due to the lack of consistent findings and limited research on elite athletes.

Bibliography

Chaouachi M, Vincent S, Groussard C. A Review of the Health-Promoting Properties of Spirulina with a Focus on athletes’ Performance and Recovery. J Diet Suppl. 2023 May 4:1-32.

doi: 10.1080/19390211.2023.2208663.

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