Meet The Antioxidant That Can Help You Recover From Your Workouts

Photo: Christine Hewitt

If you are an athlete in any competitive sense, or if you exercise just a few times a week, you may be supplementing your training regimen with things like protein powders, amino acids, and omega oils. These supplements are great for upping your athletic game, but if you’re not including astaxanthin among your daily supplement arsenal, you are missing out on a supplement that can be a secret weapon for athletes.

While relatively new in the supplement category, astaxanthin has been gaining recognition over the past 10 years due to its potent antioxidant strength. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, like beta-carotene or lutein, and is the red pigment found in nature. It’s found in animals such as salmon, shrimp, and lobsters, but it's most abundantly found in a freshwater algae called Haematococcus pluvialis. While certain foods like salmon naturally contain astaxanthin from algae they eat in the wild, you’d need to eat several pounds of salmon to get an adequate astaxanthin dosage on a daily basis. Therefore, the most efficient and cost-effective way to incorporate astaxanthin into your daily life is by taking an algae extract supplement. Dosages range from 4 milligrams to 12 milligrams per day.

Natural astaxanthin is a unique antioxidant because of the shape of its molecule—it’s both water- and fat-soluble, which protects the entire cell from damage. The benefits natural astaxanthin can provide to the human body are comprehensive, including fighting free radicals, supporting skin health, eye and brain health, cardiovascular health, improved athletic performance, and helping the body recover from intense exercise. The improved athletic performance as well as faster recovery from exercise is what excites athletes as they strive to perform at their very best.

Supporting the mitochondria for optimal energy.

Energy production in the body starts in our cells, which rely on the mitochondria, the generators or powerhouses found within our cells that produce energy. Mitochondria break down carbohydrates and fatty acids to generate energy. Your body needs millions of mitochondria running at full capacity because the better they perform, the better you will feel. There are several ways that you can help your mitochondria perform optimally, such as calorie restriction, getting a good night’s sleep, and minimizing inflammation and free radicals. Taking astaxanthin will also help. Research has shown that astaxanthin provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support after exercise to the mitochondria, resulting in better mitochondrial performance, which can result in better physical performance.

How antioxidants can help you get in better shape.

Exercise results in physical fatigue of the body and requires downtime to recover. But what if there was a way to increase the time it takes to recover after exercise? A study was conducted to test just this: Healthy volunteers using progressively heavier loads in a stepwise exercise were tested with astaxanthin supplementation versus a placebo. Results showed that supplementation with astaxanthin improved metabolism and respiratory-circulatory ability, plus anti-fatigue and antioxidant levels in the body were increased. Another study with soccer players proved that astaxanthin reduced muscle damage and protected the function of cells during heavy exercise. With these two studies alone, you can see why astaxanthin might be valuable if you're super active.

Astaxanthin has also been shown to improve athletic performance by increasing physical strength. (Who wouldn’t want that?) In one study, participants were given astaxanthin for six months and then had their strength tested. Amazingly, the results showed that taking astaxanthin improved performance threefold! Another study involving competitive cyclists found that taking this supplement resulted in a 15 percent increase on average in power output and also contributed to making the cyclists faster and stronger.

The bottom line? You don’t need to be an extreme athlete to benefit from taking astaxanthin. But the science is solid in supporting astaxanthin and improved athlete performance. For all of the reasons mentioned above, athletes who want to increase their performance might want to consider adding this antioxidant to their daily wellness regimen.

Want to learn more about mitochondrial health? Here's where to start.

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