I hate to start this article with a disclaimer, but we are not certain that probiotics are the sure way to increase your muscle gains. At least, that seems fair to say. We have looked through the scientific research and there are mostly certain helpful suggestions or “indirect effects” at our disposal. These “indirect effects” might include the fact that muscle soreness seems to be alleviated by admission of some bacterial strains, but this will not be the focus of this article. We want to talk about muscle gain as such.
The available research
To start with the bad news: the research looking at muscle gain specifically is in its absolute infancy. We only found one human study and one mice study. And yes, mice are not adequate scientific models for humans.
But mice studies are not meaningless. This kind of research is conventionally one of the ways to start investigating how a certain compound could potentially affect humans. After mice come animals like canine and monkeys, before it is time for the naive homo sapiens to fall into the trap of “earning money by testing our medicine,” accompanied by the picture of an all too good-looking gentleman.
On a side note, with supplements such as probiotics things are a little different. Generally speaking, probiotics do not have to be regulated that strictly (if at all, depending on the legislation of your country). For instance, they don’t fall under the scrutiny of the FDA in the United States. So, it is actually even more surprising that deep, long-duration human studies do not seem to be present.
Giving it a go
On a positive note, for most people probiotics do not or only have limited side-effects, as far as we can assess. This means that perhaps it is worth trying the strains that have been studied and are suggested to significantly increase post-exercise muscle mass in mice.
The findings: The two strains
What follows are two bacterial strains and how these are suggested to contribute to muscle mass gains on our Schwarzenegger mice and in the human-based study.
We start with the human based study based on “29 recreationally-trained males,” a number of subjects that is conventionally not deemed too high. The basic finding was that the bacterial strain they used Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 actually enhanced protein absorption and hence muscle recovery and athletic performance.
The second study is in mice and concludes that the Lactobacillus plantarum TWK10 increased relative muscle mass in mice. The mice were divided in three groups of eight, and I can tell you: this is not a large number. Probably you and I could set up such a study (send me a message if you are compelled). But, again, it doesn’t have to be meaningless.
What this study concluded was that type I fiber muscles (the slow kind) and lower leg muscles increased after admission of this probiotic relative to the control groups. The scientists suggest that long-term supplementation with this probiotic “may increase muscle mass, enhance energy harvesting” and so forth. I wouldn’t buy it that easily, but I would also not disregard it as utter microbial faeces.
In short, the two bacterial strains that might help to improve your muscle gains (alongside many other health benefits you might get) are: Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 and Lactobacillus plantarum TWK10. The second strain does not seem commercially available in the West (minus the TWK10 variation, L. plantarum is quite popular). Fortunately, the former is available in a number of products.
For the sake of convenience, I looked up the products that contain the former strain and a less specific version of the second. You can find them through our very own probiotics recommendation tool, once you submit your gender, age and select “muscle gain” in “health issue.”
Good luck! Let me know below if you are going to try it or if you have any other questions.
Chen, Yi-Ming, Li Wei, Yen-Shuo Chiu, Yi-Ju Hsu, Tsung-Yu Tsai, Ming-Fu Wang, en Chi-Chang Huang. “Lactobacillus Plantarum TWK10 Supplementation Improves Exercise Performance and Increases Muscle Mass in Mice”. Nutrients 8, nr. 4 (april 2016): 205. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040205.
“Probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and increases recovery”. Geraadpleegd 15 mei 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4963221/.