Introduction: Astaxanthin is a lipid-soluble carotenoid found in a variety of aquatic organisms. Prolonged astaxanthin supplementation has been reported to increase fat oxidative capacity and improve running time to exhaustion in mice. These data suggest that astaxanthin may be applied as a potent ergogenic aid in humans.
Purpose: To assess the effect of 4 wk of astaxanthin supplementation on substrate use and subsequent time trial performance in well-trained cyclists.
Methods: Using a double-blind parallel design, 32 young, well-trained male cyclists or triathletes (age = 25 ± 1 yr, weight = 73 ± 1 kg, V˙O2peak = 60 ± 1 mL−1·kg−1·min−1, Wmax = 395 ± 7 W; mean ± SEM) were supplemented for 4 wk with 20 mg of astaxanthin per day (ASTA) or a placebo (PLA). Before and after the supplementation period, subjects performed 60 min of exercise (50% Wmax), followed by an time trial of approximately 1 h.
Results: Daily astaxanthin supplementation significantly increased basal plasma astaxanthin concentrations from nondetectable values to 187 ± 19 μg·kg−1 (P < 0.05). This elevation was not reflected in greater total plasma antioxidant capacity (P = 0.90) or attenuated malondialdehyde levels (P = 0.63). Whole-body fat oxidation rates during submaximal exercise did not differ between groups and did not change over time (from 0.71 ± 0.04 to 0.68 ± 0.03 g·min−1 and from 0.66 ± 0.04 to 0.61 ± 0.05 g·min−1 in the PLA and ASTA groups, respectively; P = 0.73). No improvements in time trial performance were observed in either group (from 236 ± 9 to 239 ± 7 and from 238 ± 6 to 244 ± 6 W in the PLA and ASTA groups, respectively; P = 0.63).
Conclusion: Prolonged astaxanthin supplementation does not augment antioxidant capacity, increase fat oxidative capacity, or improve time trial performance in trained cyclists.