"You can only train as hard as your ability to recover."
- Dr. Aaron Horschig
Damage from Physical Stress
The stress athletes and others undergo by working out intensely, competing under pressure, and eating special diets can alter their gut microbiota. This may cause issues such as chronic inflammation, sleep problems, or immunological disorders.
Few endeavors are as physically and mentally taxing as the triathlon race. Its consecutive, long-distance swimming, cycling, and running increases the body’s oxidative stress, causing extreme muscle fatigue and damage. Competitors face delayed-onset muscle soreness, inflammation, and even the risk of kidney damage from the physical stress experienced during the event.
Psychobiotics for Fitness Performance
Probiotics are already used by some to maintain fitness and boost recovery. The anti-stress, anti-fatigue, and antioxidant properties of psychobiotics makes them an encouraging prospect for achieving physical well-being.
Researchers in Taiwan specifically chose triathletes in order to learn about PS128’s effects on physical stress and exercise performance . They discovered a range of benefits that came from taking the psychobiotic strain, including better athletic performance and increased branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which may uniquely contribute to muscle building. They saw a reduction in fatigue, muscle soreness inflammatory markers, and oxidative stress, lowering the likelihood of kidney damage. These results suggest PS128 could be a powerful ergogenic supplement, enhancing fitness performance and overall health.
Clinical Study on Athletes
Thirty-four athletes from Taipei City University were recruited for a double-blind study, 18 of them participating in a sprint triathlon and 16 completing a full triathlon. They trained for eight weeks leading up to the race. At week five, the “sprint” cohort began receiving two daily capsules of either PS128 or a placebo, and four weeks later they completed their half-distance race. The “full” group began the same treatment of either two capsules or a placebo beginning at week six of their training.
Researchers wanted to measure what different effects taking PS128 or a placebo had on muscle fatigue, muscle and kidney damage, oxidative stress, and inflammatory response. In order to do this, blood and urine samples were taken from each athlete immediately after they completed their race as well as after resting for three hours. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise capacity were also measured for each “full” cohort athlete, once before they began receiving treatment and again after their triathlon.
Strenuous exercise induces muscle cell destruction and inflammation. This raises levels of enzymes and other muscle damage markers, including creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase, and myoglobin.
Test results in the full triathlon group showed that after resting for three hours post-race, CK levels in the placebo group had risen to nearly 8 times baseline. In athletes taking PS128, the rise was less than half as much, a significant difference between the two cohorts.
Creatine kinase (muscle damage marker) levels in full triathlon athletes taking PS128 were significantly less 3 hours after the race versus in the placebo group; *p<0.016
Muscle damage and inflammation markers were reduced after physical activity.
The immune system reacts to muscle damage by releasing several cytokines into the blood to induce inflammation. These include TNF-α, INF-γ, IL-6, and IL-8. In both cohorts, the athletes taking PS128 had significantly fewer inflammatory cytokines in their bloodstream after completing their event when compared to their placebo counterparts.
TNF-α (inflammation marker) levels were significantly less post-race in the full triathlon PS128 group versus the placebo group; *p<0.016
IL-6 (inflammation marker) levels were significantly less post-race in the full triathlon PS128 group versus the placebo group; *p<0.016
INF-γ (inflammation marker) levels were significantly less post-race in the full triathlon PS128 group versus the placebo group; *p<0.016
IL-8 (inflammation marker) levels were significantly less post-race in the full triathlon PS128 group versus the placebo group; *p<0.016
Exercise power and endurance were increased, while fatigue was decreased.
Anaerobic capacity peak power significantly increased after taking PS128 for three weeks when compared to a placebo group; *p<0.05
Before the study (and supplementation) began and again at the end (after supplementation), participants in the “full” group completed a Wingate anaerobic capacity test. Each individual pedaled on a stationary bicycle at maximum effort for 30 seconds. Peak power (PP), mean power (MP), and fatigue index (FI) were recorded. To test aerobic capacity, endurance on a stationary bike at 85% VO2 max was also tested at similar intervals.
Compared to the placebo group, the test group showed significant improvement in PP, MP, FI, and endurance after taking PS128.
Anaerobic capacity mean power significantly increased after taking PS128 for three weeks when compared to a placebo group; *p<0.05
Endurance of athletes who took PS128 for three weeks was significantly improved versus a placebo group; *p<0.05
Concentration of muscle-enhancing BCAAs was increased.
Amino acids are building blocks that construct every part of our body. Three of these, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and are essential for the synthesis and repair of skeletal muscle. They are the most utilized amino acids during exercise, crucial to muscle energy metabolism, and can increase the effectiveness of athletic training.
Amino acids in blood samples from the “full” cohort athletes were compared. Those who had been using PS128 had higher levels of multiple amino acids, including all three muscle-stimulating BCAAs, than those in the placebo group.
PS128 supplementation (LG) showed significant improvement of about 30% on a treadmill endurance test when compared to a placebo group (PG), *p<0.0035
A Second Study: Enhanced Endurance
A subsequent study looked at the effects of PS128 on the microbiota and on physical performance of a group of athletes who took the probiotic for four weeks . Exercise endurance of the test athletes showed a significant increase of about 30% over that of the placebo group.
 Huang, W. C., Wei, C. C., Huang, C. C., Chen, W. L., & Huang, H. Y. (2019). The Beneficial Effects of Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 on High-Intensity, Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Performance in Triathletes. , (2), 353.
 Huang, W. C., Pan, C. H., Wei, C. C., & Huang, H. Y. (2020). PS128 Improves Physiological Adaptation and Performance in Triathletes through Gut Microbiota Modulation. , (8), 2315.