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Probiotics to mitigate muscle fatigue in endurance sports

Probiotics Lactobacillus – already known in scientific literature for their ability to modulate immune responses, reduce inflammation and contribute to improving the immune system (1,2,3,4) – are also potentially useful in mitigating muscle fatigue in sports endurance.

The study reaches these conclusionsEffect of Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 on neuromuscular efficiency after a half-marathon', conducted with technical assistance from Taipei University and published in Frontiers (Yu Chia-Hsien et al. 2023). (5)

1) Lactobacillus plantarum PS128

Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 is a specific strain of Lactobacillus plantarum, bacterium of the family Lactobacillaceae, generate Lactobacillus, classified as GRAM positive. Lactobacillus are found in a wide range of environments, including plant substrates, meat, milk, as well as in the human microbiome. These oxygen-tolerant, anaerobic lactic acid bacteria have been used in the food fermentation process for centuries. (6)

Recent studies have highlighted the effectiveness of PS128 in reducing oxidative stress and muscle damage in endurance athletes subjected to prolonged exercise (Huang et al., 2019; Fu Szu-Kai et al. 2021. See notes 7,8). On this premise, the researchers hypothesized and wanted to verify whether the antioxidant action of PS128 can actually contribute to reducing muscle fatigue and promoting the recovery of exercise capacity after prolonged effort.

2) The study. Materials and methods

A systematic review expanded on previous research conducted by Fu Szu-Kai et al. (2021), (4) investigating the impact of daily oral PS128 intake on recovery of exercise capacity after a half marathon. The study focused on muscle fatigue and electromyographic (EMG) activity, with particular interest in the effects on the vastus medialis oblique (VMO).

The experimental design, double-blind and with repeated measures, involved eight amateur 'runners' aged between 18 and 25, divided into two groups. The first group took two PS128 capsules per day for 4 weeks, while the other received a placebo. After a three-month 'washout' period, the researchers reversed the treatments on the two groups, applying the same protocols.

The half marathon was conducted under controlled conditions, with assessments of lower limb muscle strength and electromyographic (EMG) activity analysis to understand the effects of the probiotic on muscle fatigue.

Flowchart of the experimental design. Lactobacillus plantarum PS128
Figure 1. Flowchart of the experimental design.

3) Results

The experimentation led to the following results:

– at the starting point (baseline) there was no significant difference between the group that took the placebo and the one that took the PS128 probiotic. During the half marathon, both groups showed similar times, without significant differences,

– the analysis of electromyographic (EMG) activity, however, revealed significant changes in the vastus medialis oblique (VMO) muscle, an indicator of impact on muscle fatigue. Also showing, in the placebo group, a more marked decrease in muscle strength in the knee flexors.

These results suggest that taking PS128 could positively influence muscle fatigue and performance during a prolonged effort such as a half marathon.

4) Provisional conclusions

Food supplements with PS128 probiotics could constitute a useful tool for reducing muscle fatigue in amateur and professional 'runners'. The results of the study indicate that the probiotic PS128 can help preserve muscle strength and electrical activity, improve performance and accelerate recovery after intense efforts, providing a potential benefit in post-competition recovery.

Gabriele Sapienza


(1) Dario Dongo, Gabriele Sapienza, Probiotics, potential anti-inflammatory activity of Lactobacillus spp. and Rhodopseudomonas palustris (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.8.23

(2) Dario Dongo, Carlotta Suardi, Prebiotics and probiotics, microbiome and immune system. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.4.20 https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/prebiotici-e-probiotici-microbioma-e-sistema-immunitario/

(3) Marta singed, Lactobacillus reuteri, a probiotic useful against colon cancer. USA study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.2.22

(4) Marta singed, Probiotics promote the mental well-being of new mothers. The Italian study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(5) Yu CH, Lai CC, Chen JH, Chen IC, Tai HL and Fu SK (2023) Effect of Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 on neuromuscular efficiency after a half-marathon. Front. Physiol. 14:1254985. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2023.1254985

(6) Behera SS, Ray RC, Zdolec N. Lactobacillus plantarum with Functional Properties: An Approach to Increase Safety and Shelf-Life of Fermented Foods. Biomed Res Int. 2018 May 28;2018:9361614. doi: 10.1155/2018/9361614. PMID: 29998137; PMCID: PMC5994577.

(7) Huang WC, Wei CC, Huang CC, Chen WL, Huang HY (2019). The beneficial effects of Lactobacillus Plantarum PS128 on high-intensity, exercise-induced oxidative stress, inflammation, and performance in triathletes. Nutrients 11 (2), 353. doi:10.3390 / nu11020353

(8) Fu, S.-K.; Tseng, W.-C.; Tseng, K.-W.; Lai, C.-C.; Tsai, Y.-C.; Tai, H.-L.; Hsu, C.-C. Effect of Daily Oral Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 on Exercise Capacity Recovery after a Half-Marathon. Nutrients 2021, 13, 4023. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13114023

Trainee Assistant Researcher | Website | + posts

Graduated in Agriculture, with experience in sustainable agriculture and permaculture, laboratory and ecological monitoring.

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