Probiotics and sports: A new magic bullet?

Nutrition. 2019 Apr:60:152-160. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2018.09.023. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


The use of probiotics in sports has been growing in the past years focusing on the attenuation of upper respiratory tract (URS) and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms commonly present in endurance athletes. Researches shown different results and this may related to the probiotic strain, dose, period consumption or even the form of administration (capsules, sachets or fermented milk). These four factors directly influence in the probiotic's outcome and this question still remains unclear. Thus, the goal of this review is to clarify how these factors may influence the outcomes, approaching the major differences among studies, mechanisms by which the probiotic may contribute in sports field and applied conclusions. It was used 'probiotics', 'athletes', 'sports', 'exercise', 'athletes performance', 'immune response', 'intestinal symptoms' as keywords and its combinations and 20 original articles were selected for our purpose. All the articles were performed in healthy physically active people and/or athletes. Putting together, it was observed that athletes may benefit from probiotics consumption. It seems that multi strain ingested via sachet or fermented food and a larger period of consumption may shown better results at minimizing URS and GI symptoms. Also, specific species appears to have a role in exercise recovery. Therefore, the beneficial effect of probiotics in sports field is strictly dependent on the four factors abovementioned. The molecular mechanisms behind the probiotics effectiveness have not yet been elucidated and perhaps the biological assessments performed in the studies as well the few number of studies published did not answer the question yet.

Keywords: Athletes; Exercise; Gastrointestinal tract; Immune response; Probiotics; Sports.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Respiratory System / microbiology
  • Sports / physiology*