The Impact of Oxygenation on Endurance Athletes

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Oxygen, and oxygenation, plays a key role in our daily lives, although the relationship between oxygen and the microbiome is often misunderstood. When it comes to athletic performance, how much oxygen the gut uses has a direct impact on how much oxygen is available for the rest of the body. 

Vo2 Max and lactate threshold are two important factors that influence performance levels in athletes. V02 max refers to the maximum volume of oxygen the body can deliver to working muscles per minute. Lactate threshold is the point during intense exercise when lactate accumulates in the blood faster than it can be removed. Lastly, oxygenation is the addition of oxygen to any system, including the human body. These ideas create the groundwork for understanding the relationship between the gut and oxygen availability

Oxygen and the Microbiome: What Are Gut Oxygen Levels?

a diagram of gut oxygen levels -- oxygenation 101
Source: Research Gate

The intestines have a unique oxygenation profile that experiences frequent fluctuations due to food ingestion. Oxygen changes in the gut directly influence the amount of oxygen available for the remaining body systems and other essential organs.

Since the digestive system receives one-third of the cardiac output, what’s going on in the gut is critical to oxygen availability in the body. This is especially important for elite athletes who place high oxygen demands on their bodies daily. If you want to increase oxygen concentration, it’s important first to consider what’s going on at the gut level.

The gut-lung axis is also important for supporting cardiorespiratory health overall. A 2019 study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that higher cardiorespiratory fitness, measured by V02 max, correlated with an increase in both microbial diversity and fecal butyrate levels. (1)

Butyrate is one of the short-chain fatty acids created when gut bacteria ferment fiber in our gut. Research revealed that cardiorespiratory fitness was a key predictor of gut diversity in healthy humans compared to other factors, including sex, age, BMI, and dietary factors. 

Bacterial strands in the gut can influence the production of specific amino and fatty acids. For example, the production of L-isoleucine and L-lysine plays a role in reducing muscular fatigue and supporting recovery. Changes in essential amino acid availability influence hematopoiesis, the formation of blood cellular components. This process may additionally increase oxygen capacity and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Hematopoiesis is responsible for transporting oxygen to various cells, meanwhile transporting carbon dioxide to the lungs for elimination. This is essential for boosting oxygen-saturated blood and stimulating nitric oxide inhalation. (2) Overall, the relationship between oxygen and the gut is closely connected and deeply impacted by intestinal microbiota diversity. 

Oxygenation and Probiotics: The Effect of Lyvecap STRONG on Oxygen-Sparing in the Gut

A diagram of how Lyvecap influences oxygenation

Oxygen homeostasis is dependent on Hypoxia-Inducible Factors (HIFS) in the intestines. HIFs help mediate intestinal adaptation to oxygen changes. When oxygen is present, the number of HIFs goes down, which blocks their effects. (3) The Lyvecap formulation regulates HIFs and influences oxygen consumption. The bacterial strains stabilize HIF1-a, which switches the metabolism to glycolysis, the breakdown of glucose into energy.

As a result, oxygen consumption in the gut decreases, creating more oxygen availability for other organs and tissues. In times of prolonged exercise, athletes experience increased oxygen saturation levels.

Oxygenation 101: The Benefits of Oxygen-Sparing in the Gut on Endurance Athletes

a photo of the Lyvecap bottle cap exploding

The energizing effect of Lyvecap is oxygen-sparing, helping athletes reach peak performance during high-intensity exercise. STRONG has been shown to decrease V02, mean heart rate, and blood lactate levels. More oxygen is available for the brain, heart, kidney, and muscles if there is less oxygen consumption at the intestinal level. The Lyvecap formulation may increase the time to exhaustion and improve exercise performance in endurance athletes.

Overall, oxygen dispersion plays a crucial role in performance levels and allows endurance athletes to maximize their physical potential. STRONG was formulated to target common issues athletes face, including oxygen availability and lactate build-up in the muscles.

The microbiome directly impacts all systems in the body, playing a vital role in performance and recovery. Balancing gut microbiota should be a priority for overall well-being, especially in elite-performing athletes that place intense physical demands on their bodies. Your body’s resiliency starts in the gut, but the benefits impact the entire body. 

Oxygenation and the Gut: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there oxygen in the gut?

Yes, in the human digestive tract, there is an oxygen gradient. Oxygen levels are higher at the bottom of the colonic crypt, where stem cell levels differentiate from the top of the crypt. At the top of the colonic crypt, more microbes reside. (4) Vertical gradients in the gastrointestinal tract were observed from the aerobic lumen across the epithelium to a richly vascularized sub-epithelial mucosa. Generally speaking, the intestinal muscles are oxygenated and carry oxygen in the range of 7-10%.

How much oxygen is in the gut?

Gas in the stomach contains approx. 15 to 16% oxygen, 14 to 18% carbon dioxide and about 6-10% nitrogen. The air breathed carries a total oxygen concentration of 21%, allowing some oxygen to pass into gastrointestinal blood cells.

What is gut hypoxia?

Gut hypoxia is limited oxygen availability in the gastrointestinal tract. The colon, in a healthy state, is in a low-oxygen environment. While the human body needs oxygen, our microbial cells thrive in a reduced oxygen state. The short-chain fatty acid, Butyrate, maintains physiologic hypoxia in the colon. This is due to the stabilization of HIFs, which promote the expression of genes that assist gut barrier protection.

What is the best supplement for athlete performance?

The gut is the central pathway for enhancing athletic performance and recovery. Taking a clinically-proven probiotic, formulated with scientifically-selected strains can change the game on an immunological level. Lyvecap is an ideal supplement for athletic performance due to its unique proprietary formulation. More information about the science behind our formula can be found here.

What is the gut-lung axis?

The gut-lung axis represents bidirectional communication between the stomach and the lungs. This pathway impacts the immune response of both essential organs. Consequently, imbalances in the gut can influence the lungs and vice versa. That’s why taking care of your gut health is essential for respiratory strength. 


  1. Jäger et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2019) 16:62
  2. Weinberger B, Heck DE, Laskin DL, Laskin JD. Nitric oxide in the lung: therapeutic and cellular mechanisms of action. Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Dec;84(3):401-11. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(99)00044-3. PMID: 10665837.
  3. Kelly, C. J. et al. Crosstalk between Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Intestinal Epithelial HIF Augments Tissue Barrier Function. Cell Host Microbe 17, 662–671 (2015).
  4. Zheng L, Kelly CJ, Colgan SP. Physiologic hypoxia and oxygen homeostasis in the healthy intestine. A Review in the Theme: Cellular Responses to Hypoxia. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2015 Sep 15;309(6):C350-60. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00191.2015. Epub 2015 Jul 15. PMID: 26179603; PMCID: PMC4572369.