The gut microbiome plays an important role in sports and exercise performance. Increasing evidence tells us that exercise can change the balance of your gut microbes and promotes diversity, which is linked to benefit on performance and recovery. At the same time, improving your gut health through changing your diet will increase the range of your gut microbes, which can lead to a boost your performance and recovery, and reduce future gut related problems.
When your gut microbiome runs efficiently, then the entire body is running efficiently. This is why more and more research goes into mapping gut microbiomes of high athletic performers and using them to boost the health of others.
A balanced microbiome is essential as it will allow the right absorption and nutrient use. If you have got a toxic gut microbiome, then the microbes are fighting just to survive and don’t have time to pull out the important vitamins, proteins, and enzymes, all of which is able contribute to an improvement in overall performance.
A healthy gut microbiome is vital to any athlete interested in getting the most out of their food. Why train hard and eat right if your microbes can’t extract critical nutrients?
If you eat the right foods to feed your microbial digestive machine, they’ll then pull out maximum nutrients. Probiotics are good for supporting gut health, they contain a live source of healthy bacteria that can help support the immune system, especially during high-intensity performance, therefore keeping the gut microbiome healthy.
What’s more, the gut microflora actually provides plenty of your nutrients. They’ll take food your digestive tract can’t process and convert it into nutrients you need to survive.
It’s therefore essential for athletes to possess the microbiomes that are thriving and not just fighting to survive, as this allows for gains in performance.
The gut microbiome plays an enormous role in inflammation – it can either increase or decrease levels depending upon the current balance. Inflammation can interfere with athletic/sports performance, therefore slowing recovery, and that is the root cause of many chronic diseases. Dysbiosis (Gut microbiome imbalance), is related to inflammatory conditions, so it’s vital we maintain a healthy microbiome to help reduce bodywide inflammation.
Research shows that improving your gut microbiome balance reduces inflammation, which provides both short term relief and future risk reduction. Improving your microbiome balance of good and bad bacteria and the diversity also provides a more stable environment, which reduces the impact of repeated stress athletes place on their bodies.
When your gut microbiome is in good balance and is happy and healthy it helps to boost energy levels, which can translate into better performance by:
• Athletes depend upon high energy levels to launch themselves past their competitors and beyond. To possess any chance of this athletes must have a gut microbiome that operates at its peak.
• Reduce fatigue through better lactic acid breakdown and removal.
• Controlling the oxidative stress, which can delay fatigue symptoms.
• Increasing ATP levels, your molecular level energy production.
• Regulating metabolism.
• Supplying essential fuel to your cells power plant the mitochondria.
• Regulating energy harvest, storage, and expenditure.
The microbes in your gut actually communicate with your brain along the vagus nerve and vice versa, this is referred to as your Gut Brain Axis. Your Microbiome plays large role in the state of your mental health and when they are out of balance, they can contribute to mental illness. Dysbiosis (gut microbiome imbalance) has also been linked to anxiety and depression.
A healthy gut microbiome composition can have a positive contribution to mental strength. The composition of the gut microbiome significantly affects our mood, pain tolerance, metal clarity attitude, cognitive performance and brain function.
You rarely find any overweight high-level athletes these days – well, with the odd exception. Having and keeping your gut microbiome in good balance can make it easier to stay healthier.
This is because the gut microbiome influences:
- Body mass composition (muscle vs. fat).
- White vs. brown fat – we would like more brown fat than white.
- Blood glucose response to meals.
The gut microbiome plays a large role in each of those factors making it vital to have the microbiome in a healthy balance, this can then influence training regimens and patterns.
The microbiome can help individuals build bone mass and strength through hormone and immune system regulation. A well balanced gut microbiome also has the ability to increase mineral absorption of calcium and magnesium. This is good news in times of injury, as a properly functioning microbiome can speed up bone healing caused by sport-related trauma and injury.
Physical activity is thirsty work, your body loses water through sweating and breathing, leaving you at a greater risk of dehydration, especially during times of prolonged exercise. Water is crucial for life and helps promotes a healthy gut.
The gut microbiome is involved in maintaining good hydration during exercise. It does this by helping the body to use water in the most effective way. Dehydration will weaken exercise performance and so it is vital for athletes to keep water levels balanced.
Studies have found that gut microbes contribute to your hydration status by influencing the transport of electrolytes like sodium and potassium through the gut lining.
Gut microbiome imbalance, or dysbiosis, can be a contributor to poor sleep quality and lowered cognitive flexibility. The gut microbiome plays a vital role in the regulation of hormones like serotonin, GABA and cortisol, all of which can affect your sleep/wake cycle and your ability to drop off to sleep. More recent research also shows that people with a more diverse gut microbiome actually get better night’s sleep.
Good sleep and feeling adequately rested are essential as this will allow athletes to perform at their best whether they are a beginner or at a pro level. But it’s also important to remember that good gut health, adequate sleep and performance are all closely linked, so taking care of the gut microbiome will support you reach your goals (or maybe even go beyond them).
There is a powerful system in your body called the antioxidant defence system or redox signalling, this uses antioxidant enzymes to keep you healthy. Athletes need this system to constantly be performing at its best in order to recover in good time and keep them at the top of their game for longer periods of time.
A healthy redox status is related to a balanced gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome-regulates the antioxidant enzyme system which helps to:
- Prevents tissue damage from exercise – muscle injury or soreness
- Protects against intense exercise-induced oxidative damage
- Related to the physical status of athletes
- Reduces physical fatigue
- Improve exercise performance
During intensive and sustained training and high-level competition a large amounts of free radicals that likely exceed the buffering capacity of a typical body are generated. This makes athletes liable to oxidative stress and more likely to build up damaging inflammation. Therefore having a healthy thriving gut microbiome will help the recovery process by controlling oxidative stress and inflammation within the body and speed up the recovery from training and performance.