Astaxanthin: effect & special importance for athletes
General information about astaxanthin
Astaxanthin belongs to the group of carotenoids. In this class of naturally occurring and fat-soluble pigments, over 800 different yellow and red variants are known in nature. Astaxanthin is considered the most potent and powerful carotenoid.
It is formed by plankton, algae, molds, bacteria and some plants. It protects them from the harmful effects of oxygen and sunlight. Astaxanthin is a fat-soluble antioxidant and therefore develops its effectiveness in the body in the lipid region.
The highest concentration of astaxanthin is found in the green algae Haematococcus pluvialis. From this origin it enters the cycle of the food chain. The green alga secretes the red pigment under stress conditions. This allows it to persevere for up to 40 years even under extreme conditions.
Salmon, trout, crayfish, lobster and crab, and even flamingos have their red coloration due to astaxanthin. They are protected by astaxanthin from photooxidation (damage caused by UV radiation). In addition, astaxanthin prevents the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids. It also plays a major role in the regulation of the immune system and in reproductive behavior and fertility.
The effect of astaxanthin
Astaxanthin is considered one of the most powerful antioxidants. It exhibits anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties and offers a broad spectrum of activity for various conditions: including cell protection for the skin, use in chronic joint conditions, cardiovascular support, eye diseases and inflammation.
Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals in the body. Free radicals are generated by various factors, such as solar radiation, stress, air pollution, smoking, infections, chronic diseases and intense physical stress such as during sports.
The special importance of astaxanthin for athletes
The mechanism for the positive properties in athletes lies in the strong antioxidant effect of astaxanthin.
As a fat-soluble active ingredient, astaxanthin exerts its effect in the lipid areas of the body. It extends throughout the lipid bilayer in cell membranes, protecting both the inside and outside of the membrane from free radical damage.
As mentioned: Frequent sports and (highly) intense activities and strong physical stress cause oxidation processes in the body, which lead to free radicals. The more intense the activity, the more free radicals.
In the body, free radicals damage cells by means of uncontrolled oxidation, which can lead to deterioration of general condition and premature aging processes. Antioxidants protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals and can thus prevent adverse health effects.
Studies on performance enhancement by astaxanthin in sports
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals: If there are not enough antioxidant agents available, fatigue will occur more quickly during intense exercise and muscles and joints may suffer more from the physical stress.
Thus, studies indicate that an increase in performance is possible both in terms of strength and endurance and that the body regenerates faster after intense training sessions. There is also said to be less muscle soreness and less joint discomfort.
In various study approaches with soccer players and cyclists, among others, it was investigated which positive properties astaxanthin has specifically for athletes and sportsmen. Here, astaxanthin was shown to significantly reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and thus buffer against fatigue and muscle and joint discomfort. Significant performance increases are thus possible. (1-4)
A double-blind study examined strength endurance increases over a six-month period on a squat machine with administration of 4 mg of astaxanthin per day. Subjects receiving 4 mg of astaxanthin per day increased their number of repetitions by 27 repetitions over the study period. The participants without astaxanthin (placebo group) only achieved a training increase of nine repetitions. The astaxanthin group thus showed a threefold better result. (5)
A study with professional cyclists who took the minimum dosage of 4mg/day of astaxanthin over a period of 4 weeks showed a significant increase in performance. Compared to the placebo group, the subjects who received astaxanthin were able to achieve a time improvement of more than 2 minutes in a race distance of 20 km.
At the end of the 4 weeks, the astaxanthin group’s power release increased by an average of 15%, and the cyclists were on average 5% faster. The placebo group showed no improvement in their times at the end of the 4 weeks.6
The right supply of astaxanthin in sports
Astaxanthin intake could be supported by eating certain types of salmon. The common standard dosage of 4 mg astaxanthin/day would be, for example. contained in 100 g of red salmon. It would also cover other important ingredients such as omega3 and omega6 fatty acids.
The daily consumption of 100g of red salmon is nevertheless rather difficult to implement in reality. To cover the recommended daily dose of 4 mg astaxanthin, taking astaxanthin as a dietary supplement therefore makes sense.
Due to the general importance of antioxidants in sports, all our sports nutrition products also receive natural antioxidants in high amounts. For example in
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1st Klinkenberg LJ, Res PT, Haenen GR, Bast A, van Loon LJ, van Dieijen-Visser MP, et al. Effect of antioxidant supplementation on exercise-induced cardiac troponin release in cyclists: a randomized trial. PloS one. 2013;8(11):e79280. PubMed PMID: 24260184. Pubmed Central PMCID: 3834092.
2. Djordjevic B, Baralic I, Kotur-Stevuljevic J, Stefanovic A, Ivanisevic J, Radivojevic N, et al. Effect of astaxanthin supplementation on muscle damage and oxidative stress markers in elite young soccer players. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 2012 Aug;52(4):382-92. PubMed PMID: 22828460.
3 Aoi W, Naito Y, Takanami Y, Ishii T, Kawai Y, Akagiri S, et al. Astaxanthin improves muscle lipid metabolism in exercise via inhibitory effect of oxidative CPT I modification. Biochemical and biophysical research communications. 2008 Feb 22;366(4):892-7. PubMed PMID: 18082622.
4. Sawaki, K., et al, (2002). “Sports Performance Benefits from Taking Natural Astaxanthin Characterized by Visual Acuity and Muscle Fatigue Improvements in Humans.” Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 18:(9)73-88.
5. Curt L. Malmsten ÅL. Dietary Supplementation with Astaxanthin-Rich Algal Meal Improves Strength Endurance Carotenoid Science. 2008;13. PubMed PMID:
6. C.P. Earnest, et al, “Effect of Astaxanthin on Cycling Time Trial Performance,” International Journal of Sports Medicine 32(11), 882-888 (2011). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21984399