Ever heard the saying 'no guts, no glory'?
Athletes place incredible demands on their bodies and must be in top-notch condition to perform, feel, and recover at their best.
But as an athlete, is it possible to maximise your performance using your gut microbiome?
In this article, we will explore why the gut is crucial for athletic performance and how we can enhance our gut health to achieve peak athletic performance.
How Exercise Helps the Gut
How does exercise contribute to our gut health?
1) Improving Digestive Health
When we are in motion, our guts can process the food we eat throughout the day more efficiently, allowing waste products to pass through and fibre to move through our digestive system3.
2) Improving Nutrient Absorption
Enhanced digestion reduces the risk of constipation and bloating, enabling better absorption and assimilation of nutrients. This can result in improved energy and exercise recovery4.
Exercise has also been shown to boost immunity and increase levels of healthy gut bacteria. A sufficient amount of good microbes in our guts is essential for optimal functioning, leading to better mood, sleep, and serotonin production4. It doesn't have to be vigorous exercise; even walking is sufficient to get our guts moving4.
So, the next time you feel sluggish or struggle with bowel movements, get moving!
How Exercise Negatively Affects the Gut
Being active is one of the best things we can do for our long-term physical and psychological well-being.
However, excessive exercise can lead to issues such as an imbalance in the gut microbiome, a significant underlying cause of many diseases3.
Being an athlete places incredible demands on the body, not only affecting muscles but the entire body. When this strain is both high and repetitive, it can disrupt the body's homeostasis, leading to fatigue and stress, known as exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome3.
This disruption can affect sleep, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, and make us more prone to chronic injury3. Balance is key when it comes to exercise, training, and recovery.
3 Ways the Gut Impacts Athletic Performance
So, how does the gut microbiome actually impact athletic performance?
1) Reducing Inflammation
Levels of inflammation are crucial for an athlete's performance. The gut microbiome plays a significant role in either increasing or decreasing inflammation levels. Inflammation interferes with athletic performance, slows recovery, and is a root cause of many chronic diseases2.
Diets high in processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars increase inflammation, affecting recovery and sleep quality. Gut microbiome imbalance, or dysbiosis, is linked to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, autoimmunity, and bowel disease2.
Maintaining a healthy microbiome reduces systemic inflammation, allowing athletes to perform at their best.
2) Boosting Energy Levels
Consuming the right foods and maintaining a healthy microbiome boost energy levels and athletic performance. Improved lactic acid breakdown and control of redox function reduce fatigue symptoms.
The body functions more effectively by increasing ATP levels, modulating metabolism, and supplying essential metabolites to mitochondria—the cell's powerhouse for energy production.
3) Improving Mental Strength
The gut is linked to psychological health and communicates with the brain via the gut-brain axis, supporting an athlete's psychological discipline and well-being.
Athletes need strong mental states to maintain an edge over competitors, discipline in high training loads, and dietary habits. A healthy gut microbiome significantly impacts mood, pain tolerance, attitude to training, cognitive performance, and mental clarity.
When the gut microbiome is efficient, the whole body runs efficiently.
Is Gut Health Important for Athletes?
In summary, yes—gut health is crucial for athletes and can be a significant performance asset. Gut health enables athletes to maximise recovery, learn about nutrition, improve sleep, boost immunity, and enhance mental focus during exercise. It is also essential for nutrient absorption and identifying any food sensitivities or inflammatory foods.
Gut Health Supplements for Athletes
Our supplements are tailored to support gut health in all individuals, including athletes. We recommend trying probiotics alongside a nutritious diet to support your training protocol, especially if you aim to improve performance, immunity, athletic recovery, and general health. Probiotics should ideally be consumed first thing in the morning before food to increase absorption4.
We recommend our products: Immune Boost and Gut Care.
Gut Care contains 6.1 billion live bacteria + yeast microorganisms (6.1 x 10^9 Colony Forming Units) to boost good bacteria, an excellent starter for enhancing gut health.
If you are looking for a probiotic with extras, Immune Boost also contains proven immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, botanicals & prebiotics, and 8.5 billion+ (8.5 x 10^9 CFU) for an added nutrient boost. This product may be particularly useful for athletes looking to get more micronutrients into their diet.
In conclusion, gut health is incredibly important for maintaining optimal health, even if you are not an athlete. However, gut health plays a huge role in athletic performance and can be a real asset to support an athlete's training protocol.
If you want the performance edge, start with your gut!