Probiotics Benefits for Athletes?

Nowadays, the term probiotics, defining living microorganisms, which when given in appropriate amounts have a beneficial effect on the health of the host, more and more often appears also in relation to nutrition and dietary supplementation of athletes. There is now a number of potential opportunities for the effective use of probiotics in athletes, especially in the case of frequently recurrent infections of the upper respiratory tract, or gastrointestinal discomforts commonly found in endurance athletes, such as triathlon, road cycling, or long-distance running.

Probiotics for athletes – overview

It happens that players taking part in long-lasting, exhausting sporting events report symptoms such as nausea, bloating, gas, cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and even diarrhea with the presence of blood in the stool or vomiting. Certainly, the optimal functioning of the digestive tract is very important for the proper completion of the planned training unit, or for taking off in competitions and achieving the results expected by the athlete, as well as being important for regulating the adaptation process associated with the physical activity regularly undertaken by the athlete.

Most microorganisms are found in the intestines and more and more evidence indicates that intestinal microbiota plays a key role in the development of the immune system, and thus provides protection of the body against some infectious agents, which has a major impact on human physiology. In recent years, the clinical applications of selected probiotic strains have widened far beyond the traditional preventive support of intestinal microbiota during antibiotic treatment and now also include documented benefits in a variety of gastrointestinal diseases, allergic diseases, respiratory diseases, and obesity.

Probiotics for athletes – clinical studies and professional reviews

Numerous studies have already been carried out with the participation of athletes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of probiotic supplementation, taking into account their following purpose:

  • to prevent or alleviate gastrointestinal problems while exercising,
  • relieve symptoms and reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections,
  • improvement of results in terms of the physical performance of the body.

Pyne et al. In their review came to the conclusion that athletes susceptible to gastrointestinal complaints or traveling to regions where the occurrence of this type of gastrointestinal disorder is much more likely, may have a moderate benefit resulting from the use of. such as probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus or Lactobacillus fermentum, but what is important, supplementation should start well before the sports event check VSL. What’s more, the same authors observed in their review that in 10 out of 13 analyzed studies positive changes in immunologic markers and inflammation were registered, and in 6 out of 7 studies concerning incidents of upper respiratory tract infections reported by participants, a decreased duration and severity of symptoms due to supplementation of specific probiotic strains was noticed.

Convergent results in this respect were also obtained in a meta-analysis published four years ago, which included both data from the general population, as well as randomized controlled trials involving athletes, which showed that taking probiotics may favorably reduce the chance of an upper airway infection episode. , in particular, strains of bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. It should be emphasized that various formulations containing specific combinations of selected probiotic bacterial strains that have been used in previously published studies involving physically active people are too numerous to list all, therefore it is considered that there are many probiotics that can reduce the negative impact of infection upper respiratory tract for exercise performance or competition in sports competitions. In addition, further research is undoubtedly necessary to determine if selected probiotic strains can actually improve the physical performance of the body, as there are only limited data at the moment suggesting that lower intestinal barrier permeability can contribute to longer running time without feeling tired during exercise. high air temperature.


In conclusion, at the moment we have moderate evidence that probiotics may reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections and low-value evidence, which suggest that supplementation with specific strains of probiotic bacteria reduces the risk of unpleasant gastrointestinal complaints, reduces the risk of endotoxemia during exercise at high ambient temperature, and also minimizes the risk of gastrointestinal incidents. It is suggested to take a daily dose of probiotics containing strains of the genus Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium containing at least ~ 1010 live bacteria (referred to as colony-forming units, CFU). According to Prof. Michael Gleeson seems to be a better solution than using probiotic preparations consisting of many strains of probiotic bacteria, because different strains can have different effects and can even act antagonistically to each other. It is recommended to take a probiotic in the morning with breakfast and for at least a few weeks before positive health effects can be expected.

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