By: Dr. Al Sears, MD
I admire the strength and supernatural endurance of Pacific salmon.
Their trip to the spawning ground may cover more than 2,000 miles. They travel day and night upstream against powerful swift currents.
They even swim UP waterfalls. They have to outrun predators like seals, orca whales, bears and human fishermen.
And amazingly, during this entire journey the salmon never eat. Instead, they live off the fat stored in their bright pink muscle tissue. In fact, their pink flesh is the secret to their physical power… and the incredible health benefits you can get from salmon.
Not to mention the taste. I’m a huge fan of wild-caught salmon. I try to cook some on the grill at least once or twice a week.
Salmon get their color when they feed on marine algae. They contain a red carotenoid called astaxanthin.
It’s what provides legendary endurance to salmon. And it can boost your energy and physical performance, too.
Astaxanthin is the most powerful antioxidant in the world. It’s 6,000 times more effective than vitamin C. It’s hundreds of times stronger than CoQ10 and vitamin E.(1) Here’s why.
Other antioxidants can only handle one free radical at a time. But astaxanthin is like a super-hero. It takes on more than 19 bad guys at once. It forms an electron cloud around itself. Free radicals get absorbed into the cloud. It neutralizes multiple attackers at one time.
That’s really important for athletes or anyone who keeps physically fit. You see, exercise has a ton of health benefits. But it also creates a lot of free radicals. You can’t really avoid them.
The harder you work out, the more free radicals you produce. If you run a marathon you could generate 12 times more free radicals than when you’re resting.
Astaxanthin helps your body recover from that damage. It patrols your muscles for free radicals. Then it eliminates them. Studies show it provides excellent recovery from muscle and heart damage following exercise.(2)
And it improves endurance. In 2008 Swedish researchers studied 40 male students. Half received 4 mg of astaxanthin every day. The other half received a placebo.
They measured muscle endurance by the number of deep knee bends the men could perform before becoming exhausted. After 6 months, the placebo group could only do 20% more squats. The astaxanthin group increased their squats by 55%. They performed three times better than the placebo group.(3)
Researchers also tested it in competitive cyclists. They gave bikers either 4 mg of astaxanthin a day or placebo. In four weeks, the astaxanthin group became over 5% faster. They cut more than 2 minutes from a 20 kilometer ride. The placebo group cut a paltry 9 seconds.(4)
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from astaxanthin. It can help boost the benefits you get from doing just moderate exercise, gardening, or my P.A.C.E. program. It allows you to work longer without getting tired. Over time that can add up to better strength and stamina for everything in your life.
Natural astaxanthin is produced only by microalgae. We can get it by eating pink sea creatures that feed on the algae. These include some trout, red sea bream, crab, lobster, shrimp, and other pink seafood. But salmon – especially sockeye salmon – is by far the richest source. Just make sure it’s wild-caught.
A typical 6-ounce serving of Atlantic salmon only gives you about 1 mg of astaxanthin. The same serving of wild Pacific sockeye salmon gives you 4-5 mg. Still, you’d have to be eating wild-caught salmon every day to get enough.
Supplements are available. But avoid the cheap brands. They’re usually synthetic, which is 20 times weaker than the natural version. They won’t give you the performance benefits you expect. It’s worth paying the extra money to avoid taking a worthless petrochemical pill.
Most studies show doses of 4 to 16 mg per day are effective. I recommend taking at least 10 mg per day of a naturally derived form to support strength and endurance. You should see results in about four weeks or less.
Keep in mind that astaxanthin is fat soluble. Take it with a meal or snack containing some healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, or eggs. The fat will help your body absorb the astaxanthin.(5)
And try to take it with your krill or fish oil. It will boost your heart, brain and immune system health.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Pandey, S. et al,”Anti Aging Therapy: Various Alignments to Control Premature Aging.” International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences 2010;V1(2).
2. Aoi, W., Naito, et al. “Astaxanthin limits exercise-induced skeletal and cardiac muscle damage in mice.” Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, 2003;5, 139-144.
3. Curt L. Malmsten and Åke Lignell. “Dietary Supplementation with Astaxanthin-Rich Algal Meal Improves Strength Endurance. A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study on Male Students.” Carotenoid Science, 2008;Vol.13.
4. Earnest CP, Lupo M, White KM, Church TS. “Effect of astaxanthin on cycling time trial performance.” Int J Sports Med. 2011;32(11):882-8. PMID:21984399
5. Mercke Odeberg J, Lignell A, et al. “Oral bioavailability of the antioxidant astaxanthin in humans is enhanced by incorporation of lipid based formulations.” Eur J Pharm Sci. 2003;19:299-304.