Spirulina is a dietary supplement that allows the body to maintain balance and optimal performance while training.
With the supplement market shifting towards a more natural approach, spirulina is the best kept secret to improve training and optimize bodily functions.
Here's why; Spirulina has been shown to:
- Increase energy levels.
- Replenish and restore electrolytes.
- Provide an adequate amount of plant-based protein.
- Increase optimal muscle oxygenation.
- Provide antioxidant-rich properties to the body for optimal health benefits.
While Spirulina has been popular amongst plant-based, holistic, and vegan communities, it is now spilling into the athlete realm.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits Spirulina has on athletes and why you should be adding it to your training regime.
WHAT IS SPIRULINA?
Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a filamentous cyanobacterium. It obtains its energy via photosynthesis, and in this way, it resembles both bacteria and plants.
Its unique ability to use sunlight to produce organic molecules makes it a rich source of nutrients and minerals such as proteins, carbohydrates, plant pigments, and vitamins.
The main beneficial effects of spirulina are attributed to:
- The protein phycocyanin
- Linoleic acid
- Sulfated polysaccharides.
These active ingredients give spirulina its high bioactive potential.
Studies indicate that it has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It can also fight viral infections and combat diabetes and obesity.
As an athlete, there are many benefits of taking spirulina. Below are several reasons why you absolutely should use spirulina before or after your workouts.
BOOSTS ENERGY LEVELS
High in B vitamins, particularly B6, spirulina helps to keep energy levels up during high-intensity workouts.
B vitamins are energy-producing and an essential part of the body's oxidative energy processes.
Including spirulina in your diet can promote the growth of healthy Lactobacillus in the small intestine. These bacteria increase the production of Vitamin B6 by the body and increase the production of ATP.
When you consume vitamin-rich foods such as spirulina, your body produces lots of ATP. ATP is the body’s energy currency. It’s used by muscles when they need to produce more power.
In addition to Vitamin B6, spirulina has other energy-releasing compounds, namely:
- Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
The release of these compounds into the body helps to fight against chronic fatigue.
High-intensity body activity depletes the body’s mineral deposits and most athletes know that after a grueling session, they need to take supplements that replace the lost electrolytes.
Spirulina is one such supplement. 100 grams of spirulina contains:
|Mineral||Quantity in 100 g of Spirulina|
Table 1: Spirulina mineral content
Magnesium and calcium are essential coenzymes. They are required for the function of over 300 enzymes in the body which regulate energy production.
These minerals are also involved in:
- Nerve transmission
- Protein synthesis
- Muscle power and recovery
- Reduction of cramps
- Stress control
All these functions are important and athletes that want to keep their routines at peak know that they must never be deficient in magnesium or calcium.
People that lead an active lifestyle (especially long-distance runners, weight lifters, and triathletes) are more prone to suffering from hypomagnesemia. It is thought that this is because they sweat during exercise and lose magnesium.
A decline in the body’s stores of both calcium and magnesium can result in low energy levels and reduced physical performance.
Spirulina is a good source of both these minerals. It ensures that body stores are always replenished so that as an athlete, your energy levels are always high.
To give you some context, beef has 20 percent protein, and eggs have13 percent protein. When compared to other sources of protein, the quantity found in spirulina is unmatched.
Another aspect that makes spirulina special is the type of protein that it contains. Spirulina is rich in essential amino acids.
Basically, there are two types of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), namely, essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.
Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the body whereas essential amino acids can’t.
Thus, all the amino acids that the body needs come from external protein sources such as red meat, milk, and eggs.
If the body doesn't have enough essential amino acids, you can get protein-energy malnutrition.
Spirulina is a good source of essential amino acids. Some of these are:
- Leucine and Valine: These two amino acids help to repair muscle lesions. They promote muscle gain.
- Isoleucine: This essential amino acid is used to synthesize other amino acids.
- Methionine: This amino acid is a potent antioxidant.
Unlike other exogenous sources of protein, the protein found in spirulina is easily digestible because algae don’t have cell membranes. It’s also easily assimilated and used by the body to build and repair muscle.
OPTIMIZED MUSCLE OXYGENATION
Muscles need two substrates to produce energy: glucose and oxygen. Oxygen is used to break down glucose to produce ATP.
The body uses hemoglobin to transport oxygen to muscles and the more oxygen that’s delivered to muscles, the higher the muscle output.
Spirulina is a good source of iron. Iron is an important component of hemoglobin and it helps to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Regular exercise can deplete body iron stores and this has a negative impact on how well the body provides oxygen to muscles.
If iron is not supplemented, over time, athletes suffer from anemia and chronic fatigue. This is more prominent in female athletes.
A study found that approximately 82 percent of the female athletes had low body iron stores and required supplementation.
Spirulina has thrice the amount of iron that’s found in spinach. Taking spirulina supplements can help to offset an iron deficiency in athletes.
Spirulina contains a powerful antioxidant called phycocyanin. Phycocyanin has a similar structure to hemoglobin and essentially "mops up" reactive oxygen products and free radicals that are produced by the body.
Regular exercise results in continuous oxidative stress on the body, resulting in inflammation. Over time, athletes suffer from generalized body aches caused by an accumulation of inflammation and their performance can suffer as a result.
Antioxidants weaken the body’s inflammatory response by neutralizing free radicals before they attack body tissues to cause inflammation.
By taking an antioxidant-rich supplement like spirulina, you can train continuously and won’t suffer from excess body inflammation.
Spirulina is a powerhouse when it comes to overall health and wellness. Aside from its many benefits, spirulina can help athletes by:
- Increasing and supporting energy levels.
- Replenishing and restoring electrolytes after tough workouts.
- Providing an adequate amount of plant-based protein on top of a protein rich diet.
- Optimizing muscle oxygenation.
- Providing antioxidant-rich properties to the body for optimal health benefits.
If you're looking for a way to incorporate spirulina into your diet, we made it easy with our Veggies blend.
"I’ve had A LOT of different green powders to help with my daily veggie intake, from Athletic Greens, to Sunwarrior to a smaller company
And no one does it quite like ATH, there’s no weird after taste or grainy texture. It tastes great and isn’t overpowered with flavors.
I drink this with a pro and pre biotic first thing in the morning and am energized for the whole day.