Dr Andy Sparks’ research into the effects of probiotics on the health of marathon runners has been featured in award-winning active lifestyle publication, Outside Online, and the UK’s largest running magazine, Runner’s World.

Writer and elite runner, Alex Hutchinson, featured Andy’s study in his column, ‘Sweat Science’, which looks at peer reviewed research into sports and outdoor and adventure activities, and Andy’s findings also featured in Runner’s World.

Andy, Reader in Exercise Physiology at Edge Hill, investigated whether taking probiotics in the run up to a race could reduce common gastrointestinal (GI) problems that plague marathon runners. The study involved 26 athletes who took either a probiotic supplement or a placebo for 28 days before running a full marathon on Edge Hill’s international competition standard running track. Researchers took blood and muscle samples before and after the race to measure a number of markers relating to gut function and immune response to see what effect the probiotic had on the runners.

The study, which is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Sport Nutrition and Performance Research Group at Edge Hill and the internationally renowned Sports Nutrition Research Group at Liverpool John Moores University, found that in the last two weeks of the trial period, runners who took the probiotic reported a significant improvement in GI symptoms. Similarly, during the marathon itself, those who had taken the probiotic felt fewer symptoms in the last third of the race ­– when athletes often ‘hit a wall’ – than the control subjects, resulting in a better performance.

This is not the first time Outside Online has covered the Edge Hill team’s research. A previous ‘Sweat Science’ column discussed Andy Sparks’ work on the effect of an audience on weight training performance, which was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Edge Hill research is also featured in Alex Hutchinson’s bestselling book, Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.

Outside was established in 1978 to inspire active participation in the outside world and has a readership of 14-17 million per year.

Click here to read more about Andy’s research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.