Health

Can Gut Bacteria Make You A Better Athlete?

Here’s a fun fact that will make you sound cool at a dinner party: our body’s G.I. tract is so diverse it’s home to over 100 trillion different microbiomes. With that many clusters of microbiota living synergistically in your body, it’s no wonder that researchers are curious about its effect on athletic performance. As science dives deeper into the relationship between microflora and fitness the more clear the link becomes. Find out exactly how your gut health plays a key role in your health and athletic ability!

Gut Bacteria’s Link To Athletic Performance

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Healthy Gut Bacteria Can Reduce Lactic Acid Fatigue

A new study published by Nature Medicine has found an interesting link between gut bacteria and athletic endurance. Researchers for this study were interested in specifically one family of micro bacteria known as Veillonella. And why were they so interested in bacteria that sounds like a Disney villain? Because scientists have found an abundant amount of a certain strain of Veillonella, known as V. atypica in the stool of marathon runners post-marathon. So if you think you’ve got a bad job, try chasing down marathon runners for a stool sample. 

High Tech Tools For Athletic Recovery

Once scientists singled out the V. atypica strain they went on to transfer this bacteria to a test group of mice. Ultimately finding that the test group with the added micro bacteria had “significantly increased exhaustive treadmill run time.”

So why would microscopic gut bacteria lead to an increase in athletic endurance? Well, as it turns out V. atypica is a microorganism that consumes lactic acid (the acid your body produces after significant exertion) and produces propionate (a compound associated with athletic performance). Essentially, V. atypica supports a synergistic reaction within the gut biome that may lead to improved athletic endurance.

How to Improve Gut Bacteria For Athletic Performance

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Cardio Is Key For A Healthy Gut

Doing some cardio can be one of the least exciting things in your fitness routine, however, the benefits list of getting your heart pumping seems to be endless. Now it looks like ‘improved gut health’ can be added to the roster of cardio benefits too. 

How Hill Running Boosts Your Athleticism

A study done by the Microbiome Journal compared the bacterial gut diversity of people of different fitness but comparable diets. Meaning that the people researched had varying levels of fitness but their diets were similar to one another. What they found was that the participants that did cardio upwards of 90 minutes per week were associated with having higher amounts of Akkermansia muciniphila, a micro bacteria that has been linked to lower BMI and increased metabolic function.

What is so groundbreaking about this association between cardio and gut health is that it seems that exercise has a substantial impact on microflora regardless of your diet. So, while taking a probiotic is surely a good start to promoting your gut health, science also suggests that getting out for a run can be just as important.

Getting Active Increases Gut Biome Diversity

A recent study published in the science journal Gut came to the conclusion that “exercise can enhance the number of beneficial microbial species [and] enrich the microflora diversity”. The study looked into the macrobiotic environment of elite rugby players and found that they did have pretty diverse microflora. One of the biggest differences that the rugby players G.I tract had was an abundant amount of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (gesundheit) in their digestive system. F. prausnitzii is a particular strain of microbiota that gets special attention from researchers. This little microorganism has been linked to creating a healthy gut biome and leading studies have found that it has incredible anti-inflammatory capabilities.

Cardio Before Or After Weight Training?

While this study and many studies like it do not conclude that one strain of microflora turns someone into a superhuman it does recognize the important relationship between fitness and gut health. As in the case of F. prausnitzii, your gut biome does well and benefits your body when you actively do things that benefit your body, suggesting a connection between exercising and your gut bacteria. Turns out bacteria are gym bros too!

The Bottom Line On Gut Health & Athletic Performance

gut bacteria's impact on fitness

With more and more research being released on the subject of gut bacteria’s impact on athletic performance, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a significant connection. Although we will still have to wait to see if someone can markedly increase their athletic capabilities through the introduction of microflora, the science is looking promising. 

In the meantime, however, what’s the bottom line in improving your gut health to improve your athletic performance today? Well, like anything that has to do with your gut, and specifically your gut bacteria, it exists synergistically. Meaning that one habit such as going for a run or eating a poor diet sets off a chain reaction within your digestive system. So what can be done to start a positive chain reaction is to engage in regular activity that makes you break a sweat complimented by a diet that is diverse in fiber and protein.

Have you noticed a relationship between your gut health and athletic ability? Let us know down in the comments!

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Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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