Probiotics to Enhance Athletic Performance

Posted On: September 6, 2017


Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
August 30, 2017

Recently scientists at Harvard Medical School  began assessing the microbiome in elite athletes to see if the athletes harbor any species of bacteria that are not found in the general population. If elite athletes are found to harbor unique strains of bacteria in their microbiome, the goal would then be to develop probiotics for athletes that help increase energy, delay the onset of fatigue, reduce inflammation and reduce post-exercise recovery time. The researchers presented the results of their investigations on August 20, 2017 at the 254th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, which was held in Washington, DC. Read more about the study at

Many people have heard the adage, “You are what you eat.” Although there is some truth to this saying, it is not the whole story. A more accurate expression is, “You are what you absorb.” At the risk of using another cliché, this is really where the ‘tire meets the road’.

Many athletes pay a great deal of attention to the food they eat. However, most athletes are not aware of the intimate role that their probiotic bacteria play in regulating digestion, absorption and delivery of nutrients to cells throughout the body. Probiotic bacteria also influence energy production, detoxification and many aspects of the immune system. Each of these factors can have a subtle but significant effect on an athlete’s overall performance.

Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® are manufactured by BioBank Co., LTD, in Okayama, Japan. I want to review two studies conducted by scientists at BioBank, which reveal how Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® can provide positive performance outcomes for athletes.

Forced Swimming Test to Exhaustion

The first research study, which was conducted with mice, measured energy and endurance. The test is called a ‘Forced Swimming Test to Exhaustion’. Thirty-four mice were divided into two groups of 17 each. One group served as the controls while the other group (the test group) received Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® for four weeks. On four separate occasions, the mice were individually placed in a swimming tank where they swam until exhaustion. NOTE: upon exhaustion, the mice are humanely rescued and are not allowed to drown.

Results: The mice that had been receiving Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® swam twice as long as the control mice before exhaustion.[1] In terms of athletic performance, this represents a tremendous increase in energy and delayed onset of fatigue.

Comments: The substantial increase in swimming time may be due to the following. Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® deliver a group of postbiotic metabolites called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These compounds are known to help regulate and maintain the intestinal acid/base level at a slightly acidic level, which is optimal for the absorption of nutrients that are involved in energy production. Probiotic bacteria also synthesize vitamins such as vitamin B12 and folic acid which are required for energy production.

The Influences on VO2 max of Athletes Taking Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics®

This test was conducted using six male long distance runners who were members of a university track team. All measurements were taken twice. The first set of measurements was taken directly after an intense run. The athletes then consumed Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® (3 capsules daily at bedtime for three weeks). The second set of measurements were again taken after an intense run, after the athletes had been consuming Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® daily for 3 weeks.

Results:  The following improvements were documented after ingesting Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® daily for three weeks:

  1. Athletes gained an average 8.4% increase in hemoglobin
  2. VO2 max increased by about 600 mg/minute
  3. Peak expiratory flow increased from 99.5 L/min to 118.3 L/min.
  4. Cardiac output increase from 20.3 L/min to 24.5 L/min
  5. Improvements were also registered in lactic acid clearance, tolerance of carbon dioxide and increased strength of muscle contraction

While doping and the use of performance enhancing drugs remain totally illegal in professional sports, these studies show that the ingestion of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® create improvements in the microbiome within the gastrointestinal tract that result in increased energy and improved exercise performance. Thus, improving the  microbiome and the functionality of an individual’s gastrointestinal tract represents a legal, healthy way for many athletes to improve their exercise performance.

[1] Itoh T, et al. OM-X®, a Fermented Vegetables Extract, Facilitates Muscle Endurance Capacity in Swimming Exercise Mice. Natural Products Communications. 2017;12(1):111-114.