Protein remains the foundation of sports nutrition, and it’s also gaining mainstream appeal, thanks to this macronutrient’s documented ability to assist with weight loss and management. This is accomplished by protein’s ability to help control hunger and provide lasting energy. Protein also is known to aid in sports recovery and maintain muscle mass during aging.

Research now shows that protein can perform even better, when probiotics are included. Results from recent studies indicate that consuming the probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 (GBI-30), along with just 20 g protein, can improve five clinical end points related to protein use. The endpoints are shortened recovery time, decreased soreness, reduced swelling, increased power and decreased blood kinase.

“In our study, co-administration of GBI-30 with protein protected the muscle from damage as shown by perceptual measures and blood work, resulting in faster recovery and most importantly, increased performance,” said Ralf Jäger, managing member, Increnovo LLC, Milwaukee, WI. “This is a true game changer in the world of probiotic research in sports because this is the first study of a probiotic showing ergogenic effects in athletes.”

The ability of probiotics to improve protein use makes sense because probiotics improve gut health, and the gut is where most nutrients are absorbed by the body. “Gut health plays a critical role in the digestion of all nutrients consumed,” according to Jacob Wilson, professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Human Performance at the University of Tampa, where the research was conducted.

Fueled with this information, manufacturers of protein-enhanced foods such as bars and baked snacks will want to consider adding probiotics to their formulas. This is a new way for marketers to differentiate in a crowded marketplace.