New research shows athletes may be able to significantly increase their endurance with one simple addition to their regimen, allowing them to train and play longer before exhaustion… molecular hydrogen gas.
In the clinical study, molecular hydrogen (H2), infused into drinking water, was used to stop the buildup of oxidative stress and was shown to delay fatigue in 10 elite male soccer players during maximal intensity training.
Kosuke Aoki, doctorate in sports medicine from the University of Tsukuba led the research, which was featured in the Medical Gas Research.
Other studies on molecular hydrogen have shown H2 can reduce micro-injury and inflammation following exercise, but its effect on muscular performance during exercise was yet to be determined, states the abstract.
Aoki’s research was the first to show that H2 can significantly delay muscle fatigue during intense workouts. And athletes can drink H2 before and during their training or games.
These findings are allowing athletes to reach a level of physical performance they did not otherwise think possible. And moreover, the recent evidence surrounding H2 suggests it could spearhead a paradigm shift in sports medicine research.
The research sampled 10 participants, all of which were elite level soccer players. The workout included 2 components. Athletes first cycled at 75% of their VO2 max for 30 minutes. Immediately after, they performed 100 knee extensions at maximal intensity. If they fell below the threshold, they were told to pick up the pace.
They were tested once with placebo water, and once with hydrogen water, for peak torque and lactate in their blood after exercise. And the results show hydrogen water improved athletes’ ability to train longer before exhausting.
The results showed that when the soccer players got around to the knee extensions, they lost range of motion (peak torque) as early as the 20th rep. But when they drank hydrogen water, this did not happen until the 60th rep. They also showed 20% less lactate in their blood 40 minutes after exercise compared to the placebo.
These test results are especially promising, because maintaining peak torque is key to performance. When torque drops, performance begins to suffer. Stride length decreases and kicks pack less momentum. All of a sudden, athletes can’t cover the same distance and can’t kick with the same force.
However it is important to note the aspects of performance H2 improved were not unlimited in this study. Performance parameters like power output and repetition frequency were not different in the hydrogen water (HW) trial compared to the placebo water (PW) trial.
But the results are promising. The ability to delay fatigue so significantly is striking, and it can help really athletes cover the extra inches they need.
For the vast majority of intense workouts, fatigue can be felt as early as 20% into the workout, according to the research. But the athletes using hydrogen water had 20% less lactate after a workout, which suggests they had less acid in their muscles, and not as much muscle breakdown, according to Dr. Aoki. And such reductions in lactate (20%) could decrease muscle soreness by as much as a day! Dr. Sircus believes this may be a universal method for performance. “This is moving fast. I think that in the next 5 to 10 years hydrogen water in the locker rooms of professional sports teams all around the world.”
But Dr. Aoki notes several caveats around the research. To match the promise of being able to boost endurance in practical sports, many more clinical tests have yet to be performed. “What we can say though, is hydrogen water was promising in that it delayed fatigue in 10 elite soccer players during isokinetic knee extensions. And they had less lactate in their blood.”
Aoki, K., Nakao, A., Adachi, T., Matsui, Y., & Miyakawa, S. (2012). Pilot study: Effects of drinking hydrogen-rich water on muscle fatigue caused by acute exercise in elite athletes. Medical Gas Research, 2, 12. http://doi.org/10.1186/2045-9912-2-12