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Spirulina is a type of nutrient-rich algae that has been investigated primarily for its clinical benefits. It is high in protein containing all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, particularly gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Spirulina also contains vitamins, minerals and an array of phenolic compounds and other chemical constituents with antioxidant potential.

Few studies have investigated its impact on exercise. Researchers from Greece, therefore, tested the effects of spirulina supplementation on exercise capacity, metabolic responses, and markers of oxidative stress. In a randomized, cross-over study, moderately trained men supplemented with either spirulina (6 g/day dived into 3 doses taken before meals) or a placebo for 4 weeks. After each 4-week supplement period, they performed a 2 hour bout of running on a treadmill followed by a sprint to exhaustion to assess performance.

Time to fatigue was improved by 32% during the spirulina trial (2.70 vs 2.05 min). Fat oxidation during sustained exercise was increased by 11% with spirulina. Blood samples taken the days after exercise indicated that spirulina supplementation resulted in less exercise induced oxidative stress. The most likely explanation for the improved exercise performance with spirulina supplementation is the greater fat burning, which suggests it may also be effective for promoting fat loss if used over longer periods of time. The ability to mitigate oxidative stress also implicates this supplement as a potential strategy to enhance recovery.

Reference: Kalafati M, Jamurtas AZ, Nikolaidis MG, Paschalis V, Theodorou AA, Sakellariou GK, Koutedakis Y, Kouretas D. Ergogenic and antioxidant effects of spirulina supplementation in humans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2010 Jan;42(1):142-51.