Article at a glance:
- The myriad of essential nutrients in spirulina may benefit anyone with a healthy lifestyle, including improvements in energy, endurance, and muscle recovery.
- Some evidence suggests that spirulina supplementation, when combined with training and exercise, may also help with weight loss and management.
- With spirulina’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, the supplement may also aid in faster recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
Bodybuilders and endurance athletes are likely more familiar with spirulina supplementation than most. That’s because supplements made with this blue-green algae have been a top choice for their potential benefits. Although studies are still limited, there is established evidence of the promising spirulina exercise benefits. The best part is that athletes and regular people can take advantage of these benefits to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Spirulina as a Powerhouse Supplement
While the term “superfood” was coined in recent years, spirulina as a powerful dietary supplement has been recorded way back to the Aztec civilization. Spirulina has been used as a food source as early as the 16th century, especially by Aztec messengers. The blue-green algae, naturally harvested from lakes then, were believed to boost their endurance and stamina when going on marathons.
It’s astonishing that — in the 21st century — spirulina remains to be recognized as a nutrient-dense microalga that may enhance one’s athletic performance.
Much has changed through the centuries, such as how spirulina is harvested, manufactured, and consumed. This also means there’s now more scientific information that somehow explains how spirulina improves exercise performance.
Can Spirulina Be Used as a Pre-Workout Supplement?
Does spirulina increase energy? Can you build muscle with spirulina?
The essential nutrients in the blue-green algae can explain spirulina supplementation’s long list of health benefits. These vitamins and minerals help boost your endurance and energy level, allowing you to stay physically active.
Spirulina and Exercise
Regular exercise is a pillar of a healthy lifestyle — there’s no doubt about that. However, there’s such a thing as exercise-induced oxidative stress, and it’s been associated with muscle fatigue. That should not worry you, though, as long as you get enough antioxidants from your diet. Otherwise, this is one of the noteworthy spirulina benefits for workouts because, aside from vitamins and minerals, it contains pigments and carotenoids with antioxidant activity.
That means that the nutritional composition of spirulina may be helping people have enough energy to exercise today and recover to keep up with their workout the next day. It’s not surprising to see people at the gym enjoying their green smoothie infused with spirulina before or after a workout.
Spirulina and Bodybuilding
You may also be wondering, “Why do bodybuilders take spirulina?” Well, there’s a relatively simple explanation.
Protein is extremely important in building (and maintaining) muscles, so it’s common for bodybuilders to consume a protein-rich diet. While you can hit your daily protein target through the food you eat, planning meals can be a challenge sometimes. Spirulina is a convenient option because it’s a protein-rich dietary supplement.
Spirulina has also been found to contain essential amino acids needed in building muscles but isn’t naturally produced in our bodies. So whether you have a rigid workout plan or want to stay active, there are advantages to taking spirulina for exercise.
Potential Spirulina Exercise Benefits You Wouldn’t Want to Miss
1. Improved Nutritional Intake
One of the reasons spirulina has been widely considered a “superfood” is it’s been found with numerous essential nutrients. Nutrients labeled as “essential” must be consumed through diet because they are not naturally produced in the human body.
As mentioned above, spirulina is known to contain both non-essential and essential amino acids. One analysis confirmed that the protein content of spirulina can be as abundant as over 60% of its dry weight. The same spirulina research also found that it has eight essential amino acids, including ones that play important roles in muscle growth, metabolism, and tissue repair.
With these promising health benefits, it’s no wonder that supplementing spirulina for runners and athletes has been widely considered.
2. Increased Energy Levels
Does spirulina give you more energy? Well, in a sense.
Anyone taking supplements to help boost energy must also understand that energy comes from the food we eat, specifically carbohydrates, lipids (i.e., fat and cholesterol), and proteins.
Supplements, including spirulina products, don’t directly give you energy. That said, spirulina supplementation may still positively affect your energy levels because of their vitamins and how they may enhance digestion.
Breaking down and absorbing carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins – a.k.a. fuel molecules – from our diet are essential steps in producing energy in the human body.
How Can Spirulina Help Boost Energy?
The two main components that may give spirulina its energy-boosting effect are B vitamins and iron.
Spirulina contains B vitamins, including B12, commonly only found in animal foods. The B vitamins are vital for the body’s metabolic functions and energy production. Supplementing your diet with natural sources like spirulina could be one approach to improve energy levels.
Available data also suggests that a tablespoon or 7 g of spirulina can contain up to 2 mg of iron. How does that relate to energy? You may have noticed that muscle fatigue is one of the common symptoms of iron deficiency.
That’s because iron is primarily used to produce the proteins hemoglobin (in red blood cells) and myoglobin (in muscle tissues), vital for energy production and transporting oxygen throughout the body. This explains why the benefits of spirulina on blood flow are related to its energy-boosting effects.
3. Endurance Boost
Is spirulina good for athletes?
In a more technical sense, physical endurance pertains to a person’s ability to maintain physical activity even after fatigue has set in. That means your ability to keep going until you finish your training, albeit at submaximal or less optimal performance, is the measure of your endurance.
You can see why endurance is vital for constantly training athletes. But it can be just as crucial for people who exercise regularly for health reasons.
The iron content of spirulina may enhance blood flow and oxygen transport throughout the body. This green superfood has been claimed to improve endurance and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max).
Spirulina and Endurance Exercise: What Does Science Say?
Although scientific evidence is still limited, a few studies support such claims and suggest supplementing with spirulina may benefit athletes.
Trained cyclists supplemented with 6 g spirulina daily for 21 days were subjected to a series of endurance tests for a 2021 study. It found promising results in taking spirulina for sports endurance. Compared to placebo, they had significantly increased hemoglobin, exhibited lower heart rate while performing submaximal endurance tests, and had a much higher peak and average power during repeated sprint performance tests.
Similar results were observed in a subsequent study with male participants untrained in arm cycling exercises who took the exact spirulina dosage. The 2022 study recorded increased hemoglobin with spirulina supplementation. Subjects also exhibited significantly lower oxygen uptake and heart rate during submaximal exercises.
There was also a significant increase in oxygen uptake during fatigue tests, suggesting a positive outcome in supplementing spirulina for VO2 max.
4. Enhanced Muscle Recovery
Does spirulina promote muscle growth?
Many potential benefits of spirulina for sports performance and in supplementing spirulina after a workout have been associated with its powerful antioxidant effects. Evidence indicates that spirulina supplementation may improve elite athletes’ recovery from exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. Both of which can result in hampered muscle recovery and growth.
In a 2022 study, 17 elite rugby players took 5.7 g of Spirulina platensis for 7 weeks. Spirulina supplementation showed favorable results by reducing exercise-induced damage immediately after and 24 hours after exhaustive training. Oxidative damage, inflammation, and skeletal muscle damage markers significantly increased in rugby players in the placebo group. Meanwhile, no changes were observed in the spirulina group.
The same markers of exercise-induced damage also returned to baseline levels faster for participants in the spirulina group after 24 hours.
These results indicate that the spirulina exercise benefits, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant capacity, may improve athletes’ recovery after training.
5. Aid Weight Management
Workouts and sports performance are also crucial for anyone wanting to lose or manage their body weight. Several studies on the effects of spirulina for exercise were conducted with obese or overweight participants, and they demonstrated promising results for weight management.
A 2019 study had young sedentary men take 4.5 g of spirulina maxima supplement while performing a “systematic physical exercise” daily for 6 weeks. Together, spirulina supplementation and exercise led to notable improvements in their blood lipid profile, BMI, and body fat percentage. Statistically significant changes in their VO2 max were also noted.
A recent study also showed that spirulina supplementation combined with resistance training could promote weight loss in overweight and obese men. The small clinical trial had participants take two 500 mg spirulina capsules daily with three training sessions weekly for 8 weeks. Results showed that the combination of spirulina and resistance training led to a significant increase in adipolin levels.
Adipolin is a cytokine expressed in the adipose tissues linked to insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. There was also a reduction in weight and fasting blood sugar.
How to Take Spirulina for Exercise?
Should I take spirulina before or after a workout?
It’s understandable to want to be specific when incorporating dietary supplements into your routine. But one of the things you’ll appreciate about this green superfood is its flexibility when it comes to this matter. That means you can take spirulina after exercise or even before you go to the gym, and it should still deliver health benefits.
Consuming spirulina in the morning or before exercise could be an excellent way to consume a protein-rich breakfast, which has been shown to reduce the feeling of hunger throughout the day.
Is spirulina good after a workout? The studies cited above indicate that it is. Spirulina supplementation may enhance recovery and reduce muscle soreness thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect. This should minimize the need to skip training the next day.
If you’ve ever wondered, “When should I take spirulina for exercise?” There is no one right answer, although it helps to consider your ultimate health goals and needs to determine the best timing for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Spirulina Should Athletes Take Daily?
The standard recommendation for spirulina supplementation is between 1 to 5 g daily. That applies to both spirulina powder and spirulina tablets or capsules. Endurance sports athletes and bodybuilders may be inclined to take a higher spirulina dosage because they have special fitness needs.
It’s worth noting that the National Institutes of Health states that daily doses of up to 19 g for 2 months or up to 10 g for 6 months may be safe. However, it’s always best to consult your healthcare provider to incorporate spirulina into your diet.
How Long Does It Take for Spirulina to Start Working?
The time it takes for spirulina benefits to be noticeable varies for each person. This can take 1 to 3 weeks. Studies conducted on spirulina supplementation with human subjects also observed notable effects ranging from 1 to 8 weeks.
Does Spirulina Affect Testosterone?
Clinical trials observing spirulina’s effect on testosterone in humans are scarce, although a few animal studies indicate that spirulina has positive effects on testosterone levels. Some studies observed increased testosterone levels, reduced testicular damage and sperm abnormalities, and improved sexual functions.
Take Advantage of Spirulina Exercise Benefits Now
Indeed, more research is still encouraged to fully understand the mechanisms that make spirulina food supplements favorable for athletes and anyone with an active lifestyle.
Unfortunately, there’s also very scarce research to determine the benefits of spirulina supplements for female athletes. However, we can’t ignore the scientific literature that we have now. These studies indicate that spirulina may help improve physical endurance, energy levels, muscle strength, and overall health.
Are you eager to try the health wonders of spirulina? Don’t forget to consult your healthcare provider, especially if you have maintenance medications.
To be completely certain of the quality of spirulina products, make sure to only purchase from reputable brands and health stores. Look for labels that mention pure and organic spirulina and certifications that the supplement was manufactured with good practices. This way, you have peace of mind that you’re only getting the best out of the algae superfood.
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