Spirulina has been athletes best ally since centuries. The Aztecs consumed it – especially emperor Montezuma’s messenger runners (circa 1440) – as the microalgae was a great source of energy for them to run 300 km at 2000 m high and bring fresh fish to the emperor’s table. Back then, spirulina was already considered as “a natural EPO” and consumed before intense physical effort to increase stamina and fasten recovery.
Trail, triathlon or mountain biking require endurance, ie : a physical effort for a long period of time, whereas “explosive sports” like 100m, shot put or ski jumping don’t. Spirulina is efficient for sports requiring endurance as it improves strength and help recovery thanks to the combination of 2 key factors : increase of VO2 max and easier lactates elimination.
Oxygenation and recovey : all about VO2 max
VO2 max, what is it?
According to WHO*, VO2 max is “the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during exercise of increasing intensity like running or biking”. In one word, VO2 max is the maximum quantity of oxygen the body can consume per unit of time during an intense physical effort. VO2 max is the theoretical upper limit for the body to reach or exceed without any risk, but the higher it is, the better performances are.
VO2 max depends on various factors :
- independent variables : genes, age, sex
- adjustable blood capacity to drive oxygen to muscles
The right nutritional or micro-nutritional supplements can improve VO2 max and help blood driving oxygen. Note that a good training can increase VO2 max from 10 to 20%.
Adjust your VO2 max with spirulina
Phycocyanin is spirulina’s major pigment responsible of its blue color. Its chemical structure is close to erythropoietin (EPO) that stimulates red blood cells production. Only one central atom differs from these two molecules, but on the edge they have the same structure, so they have the same reaction in the presence of molecules like oxygen. During exercises requiring endurance and a muscular effort in an environment with oxygen (aerobiose), phycocyanin intake will help oxygen transportation and recovery.
Lactates : what is it?
Lactates or lactic acids are “wastes” resulting of the energy produced by muscle contraction during endurance training. Their elimination requires the activation of many metabolic pathways. It’s lactates accumulation in muscles that is responsible of soreness, tiredness and cramps. Everyone can rely on this pain : exercising after a long period of inactivity, go beyond your limit or working out too intensely! Recovery depends on the capacity to recycle these wastes.
Spirulina to fasten lactates elimination
In 2010, the Kalafati study showed that after a 2-hour run, a spirulina supplement can highly increase performance during a workout and beneficially change many blood parametres linked to this performance. But, beyond an improvement of performances, it allows to buffer lactates acidity thanks to trace-elements, base minerals (magnesium, calcium, vitamin D) and natural enzymes contained in spirulina. Studies showed that phycocyanin in spirulina can decrease muscular wounds (Lu, 2006) and stimulate lactate dehydrogenase, an enzyme that reduces lactates at an hepatitis level and transforms it into energy reusable for cells, called ATP.
Athletes who practice endurance exercises should consume phycocyanin to increase their performances. Spirulina elixir is an excellent choice and can be combined with dry spirulina to improve general health, increase energy and muscle gain.
Before choosing a type of spirulina, don’t forget to proceed to a quality check in reading our Spirulina guide : 10 advices to make the right choice. Be aware : all spirulinas are not the same!
Published on may 2017, 15th. Last updated on february 2018, 22th.