Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Astaxanthin lifts endurance efforts to higher level

Astaxanthin, a little brother of good old beta-carotene, enables mice to run for longer in an exercise wheel while increasing their fat burning. According to researchers at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, the carotene also spares muscle tissue.

Let's refresh your memory: astaxanthin is a carotene found mainly in algae and seaweed and in shrimps and lobster. Salmon farmers are interested in it for giving their salmon a purple colour. In Japan especially, researchers are searching hard for ergogenic applications of the substance.

If you give astaxanthin to laboratory animals that you are fattening, they become fat less quickly. Moreover, you increase their stamina and reduce the onslaught caused by endurance training on their glycogen stores.

In a study published recently in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Japanese researchers describe more interesting experiments with astaxanthin. They gave mice food containing 0.02 percent astaxanthin for a month. A control group was given normal food. Half of the mice from both groups (the astaxanthin group and the control group) got to train twice a week in an running wheel.

After four weeks the researchers got the trained mice to run until they literally dropped, and the astaxanthin mice [AST] kept going for noticeably longer than the mice in the control group [CON].

Astaxanthin lifts endurance efforts to higher level

The trained mice burned more fat after four weeks [figure below, left] and less carbohydrates [figure below, right] if they had eaten food with astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin lifts endurance efforts to higher level

After four weeks the astaxanthin had reduced the fat mass in the mice that hadn't trained and had done so even more in the mice that had regularly run in the wheel. Astaxanthin seems to reinforce the body-modifying effect of endurance training. The protective effect of astaxanthin on muscle mass is also interesting.

Astaxanthin lifts endurance efforts to higher level

The researchers also discovered that astaxanthin in the muscle cells of the mice protects the enzyme carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1, CPT-1, against oxidation. Certainly if the mitochondria produce a lot of energy and therefore also many free radicals large amounts of CPT-1 are oxidised. CPT-1 attaches fatty acids to L-carnitine so that the mitochondria can burn them. More CPT-1 means more fat is oxidized.

So astaxanthin functions as an anti-oxidant in the muscle cells. Aha. An anti-oxidant that works. Wonders never cease.

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Feb 22;366(4):892-7.