As a highly trained athlete crosses the finish line of an elite endurance competition, there is a lot that can go on in the body from exhaustion and cramps to nausea. While these are very normal and visible reactions to extreme sports, athletes should also be aware of the more invisible responses as well, including the depletion of the essential nutrient choline.
Choline is a compound that supports normal muscle function during exercise
Research shows that nearly 90 percent of the population lacks the recommended amount of choline in their diets, making supplementation essential. Choline is known for its impact on proper cell structure, function and signaling, as well as cardiovascular, liver and cognitive health. It’s also a precursor to the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, which is important for the central nervous system, contributing to things like muscle contraction, blood vessels and even slowing the heart rate.
“It’s clear that choline, just like omega-3 fatty acids, can be of benefit to high-performing athletes. However, we see that after intense exertion, levels of the choline in the body go down significantly,” explains Andreas Berg Storsve, PhD, Director R&D, Aker BioMarine.
A look at krill oil and athletes
Aker BioMarine is the producer of Superba Boost™, a daily krill oil supplement known for being rich in omega-3s and choline. The company, in partnership with a team from Oslo University Hospital, came together to answer the question: Is krill oil effective in reducing the depletion of choline after high intensity exercise?
Together, the team set up a study, now published in Frontiers in Nutrition, to measure the effects of krill oil on serum levels of choline. The participants were selected from the Ironman-distance Norseman Xtreme triathlon and the Oslo Triathlon.
Ranging from 24 – 61 years of age, a total of 47 athletes were divided into two groups
One test group received four grams of Superba Boost™ krill oil daily for five weeks prior to the race. The other group received a placebo consisting of four grams of mixed vegetable oil daily. The athletes’ blood was taken immediately prior to the race, immediately after, as well as the day after the race, to analyze the choline levels.
The findings: Krill oil is effective in reducing choline depletion
The research team analyzed the results and concluded that the amount of choline depleted in the body following a race depended on the distance run as well as whether krill oil had been consumed prior to the race.
On average, the amount decreased in the athletes by 15 – 34 percent, from pre-race to completion. However, the group consuming the krill oil supplement showed significantly higher concentrations of choline (9.4 percent on average) versus the placebo group. The day after the race, the krill oil group showed even greater choline levels compared to the placebo group.
“Our findings reveal that krill oil is an effective way to combat choline depletion after physical exertion,” says Storsve.
Fueling the body with the right supplements
The popularity of endurance sports is on the rise, and with athletes pushing their bodies to the limits, it’s imperative that supplements are part of the plan.
“There is no question that krill oil can be a promising ingredient for sports nutrition brands, in addition to the classic ingredients such as protein and electrolytes,” asserts Storsve.
It’s also important to point out that choline is important for all, not just top athletes.
While the Aker BioMarine and Oslo University Hospital study was conducted with a test group of high-level athletes, Storsve is quick to point out that choline is beneficial to all types of athletes, “Novice athletes, weekend warriors and general consumers alike can also benefit from krill oil,” he says.