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What is the link between phycocyanin, physical recovery and sleep?

Sleep and recovery after physical exercise are essential for staying in good physical and mental health. Yet, modern lifestyles hinder the smooth running of these processes, which can lead to physical and cognitive disorders. Phycocyanin, thanks to its antioxidant power and anti-inflammatory effects, could help recovery after physical exertion so you can once again enjoy restful sleep.

The health benefits of phycocyanin:

Phycocyanin, this pigmented protein, is present in blue algae such as spirulina. This blue pigment has been studied for its many potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

An anti-inflammatory effect:

It seems that the anti-inflammatory effect of phycocyanin is due to its ability to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (which promote inflammation). These molecules play an important role in modulating the immune response, but if their production become deregulated, they may harm the body. This dietary supplement appears to reduce the production of these molecules, which could help reduce inflammation in the body and help alleviate the symptoms of certain inflammatory diseases.

Antioxidant power:

Phycocyanin also has a strong antioxidant power that appears to be prevent oxidation of the body. Antioxidants are molecules that help the body protect itself from free radicals. The latter are unstable molecules produced by the body in response to environmental factors such as pollution, exposure to UV rays, cigarette smoke and alcohol consumption. If an imbalance is created between the production of these unstable molecules and the antioxidant capacities of the body, oxidative stress results, which can damage cells and tissue. Phycocyanin works by helping to restore the balance between antioxidants and free radicals, thereby helping to protect cells from oxidative damage (caused by oxidative stress).

How does recovery occur after physical exertion?

Daily physical activity is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health. After physical exertion, it is nevertheless important to give the body time to recover to fully enjoy the benefits of exercise, but also to protect itself from injuries that may occur. To do this, the human body uses mechanisms that allow it to recover:

  • Top up energy levels: during physical exertion, muscles use energy that is stored in the form of glycogen. After exertion, the body needs to replenish its energy reserves through the nutrients that come from what we eat.
  • Repair muscle tissue: physical exercise causes damage to muscle fibres, which stimulates muscle growth and repair. During this recovery process, the body uses protein from food to repair and strengthen muscles.
  • Eliminate metabolic waste: during physical exertion, the body produces metabolic waste such as lactic acid, which must be eliminated to avoid muscle fatigue and pain. During the recovery process, the body eliminates this metabolic waste by using it as a source of energy or eliminating it via breathing or body secretions such as perspiration.
  • Regulate body temperature: during physical exercise, the body produces heat that must be dissipated to maintain a stable body temperature. After exercise, the body uses breathing and sweating to dissipate heat.
  • Sleep and rest are essential for the body to recover, repair and regenerate after physical exertion.

How does phycocyanin help recovery after exercise?

Recovery from physical exertion is an important process that includes energy replenishment, muscle repair and waste elimination. Consuming phycocyanin from spirulina, before or after physical activity, can help optimise some aspects of this recovery by reducing fatigue and muscle pain. Indeed, many studies have been conducted to understand what effects this dietary supplement has on the body:

  • oxidative damage caused by physical exercise is reduced: during physical activity, the body produces free radicals that can damage muscle tissue cells and cause fatigue. Consuming phycocyanin appears to help neutralise these free radicals and as a result improves recovery after physical exertion and reduces muscle fatigue.
  • Inflammation caused by sports activity is reduced: during physical exertion, damage can occur to the muscle fibres and cause inflammation and pain in the muscles. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory power, phycocyanin extracted from spirulina appears to help improve muscle recovery and reduce pain.
  • Supply of nutrients and oxygen to muscles increased: during exercise, muscles needs lots of nutrients and oxygen to function properly. Consuming liquid phycocyanin appears to help increase this intake by stimulating the production of growth factors. These help to improve blood circulation in tissue, thereby increasing the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles.

How important is sleep for health?

Sleep is essential for maintaining physical and mental balance, allowing the body to rest and recover after the exertions of the day. During sleep, the body steps in to repair damaged tissue, stimulate the immune system and regulate the metabolism.

Sleep disorders are, however, becoming more common in our modern lifestyle. Several factors are responsible for these disorders, such as the use of computers and telephones during the day, pollution, stress and a sedentary lifestyle. All this leads to a disruption of the circadian rhythm. This rhythm is the body’s internal clock over a period of 24 hours and is synchronised with alternating day and night.

If the circadian rhythm is disturbed, sleep disorders, such as insomnia, may occur. A poor quality of sleep and a lack of sleep can have adverse health effects and contribute to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. A lack of sleep also impairs cognitive functions, resulting in difficulty concentrating and memory impairment.

How can phycocyanin help regulate the circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality?

More and more research is being conducted to understand the impact of phycocyanin on sleep, and it would appear that this blue-green pigment has many beneficial effects:

  • Regulating sleep: phycocyanin appears to readjust the biological clock to bring it back in line with the natural circadian cycle. This property of this superfood is due to its hexameric structure which acts as a light sensor and helps regulate melatonin production. It is the hormone responsible for regulating sleep and waking cycles. Phycocyanin absorbs blue light, thereby stimulating the production of melatonin during periods of low light, helping us to fall asleep and to sleep restfully.
  • Regulating the circadian rhythm: phycocyanin also appears to have a positive impact in regulating the circadian rhythm by modulating the production of cortisol. It is the stress hormone and is produced by the body naturally in the morning to help wake us up. Over the day, its production decreases to give way to melatonin, which helps us to fall asleep. If the cortisol concentration remains high in the body, we can have difficulty falling asleep, with resulting sleep disorders. Studies have shown that consuming spirulina, which contains phycocyanin, could help regulate cortisol levels, thereby promoting a regular circadian rhythm.
  • Promoting REM sleep: phycocyanin could also help promote REM sleep, so it lasts longer for restful sleep. REM sleep represents the deepest form of sleep, which is essential for recovery and physical and mental rest. Consuming this blue protein appears to reduce the time we need to fall asleep and improves sleep quality.

In conclusion, consuming liquid phycocyanin has many health benefits. Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power, it reduces the oxidative damage that cells may undergo by regulating the immune system. This can result in improved recovery after physical exertion and improved sleep quality. It is important, however, to keep in mind that consuming this dietary supplement should not replace a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

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