Q As a marathon athlete, I’m always looking for ways to give myself an added edge. Is it true that hydrogen therapy can reduce muscle fatigue induced by exercise?

JAMES, Boston, MA

A This was reported by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw in a recent issue of their Life Extension News (Volume 15, No. 3, June/July 2012). Quoting the paper referenced, “Muscle contraction during short intervals of intense exercise causes oxidative stress, which can play a role in the development of overtraining symptoms, including increased fatigue, resulting in muscle microinjury or inflammation.”1

To investigate the effects of hydrogen water, 10 young (20.9 ±1.3 years old) male soccer players were examined for its potential protective effects against oxidative stress and muscle fatigue in response to acute exercise. The study employed a double-blind design, with the athletes receiving either hydrogen-rich water or placebo water for one week, then crossed-over for another week. The subjects were asked to use a cycle ergometer at 75% maximal oxygen uptake for 30 minutes, followed by measurement of peak torque and muscle activity throughout 100 repetitions of maximal isokinetic knee extension. Oxidative stress and creatine kinase in the peripheral blood were sequentially measured.

The results showed that, “Although acute exercise resulted in an increase in blood lactate levels in the subjects given [placebo water], oral intake of [hydrogen-rich water] prevented an elevation of blood lactate [as occurs during muscle fatigue] during heavy exercise. Peak torque of [placebo water] significantly decreased during maximal isokinetic knee extension, suggesting muscle fatigue, but peak torque of [hydrogen-rich water] didn’t decrease at early phase. There was no significant change in blood oxidative injury markers … or creatine kinase after ­exercise.”

In their conclusion, the researchers state, “Adequate hydration with hydrogen-rich water pre-exercise reduced blood lactate levels and improved exercise-induced decline of muscle function.” Durk & Sandy note that “increased availability of hydrogen via fermentation by intestinal microbiota wouldn’t, unlike hydrogen in water, provide water for hydration (e.g., protection against dehydration, which can be important in athletes doing vigorous exercise), but water for hydration can be easily obtained and consumed—it is the hydrogen that requires a special source.”


  1. Aoki K, Nakao A, Adachi T, Matsui Y, Miyakawa S. Pilot study: Effects of drinking hydrogen-rich water on muscle fatigue caused by acute exercise in elite athletes. Med Gas Res 2012 Apr 20;2(1):12. [Epub ahead of print]

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