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Over the past decade, we’ve learned more and more about how far-reaching the impact of a healthy gut microbiome is on the health of the entire human body.
Of course, the health of your microbiome depends on the diversity of the bacteria it is home to.
In fact, an imbalance of gut bacteria has been linked to high blood pressure and more than two dozen other diseases.
And the gut-brain axis has proven a strong connection that affects not only mood but cognitive health.
The state of your microbiome has even been found to play a role in the results you might obtain from exercise, with research showing that taking probiotics or good bacteria before working out could be the secret to increased muscle growth.
And now, there’s even more news on that front…
That’s because according to researchers from across the U.K., microbial instability in the gut goes hand-in-hand with poor athletic performance.
The microbiome challenge
The researchers set out to analyze the performance of elite endurance athletes, comparing their gut health and diets (high protein versus high carb) to how well they did in timed trials.
And they came to some very important conclusions…
First, their study showed that those who followed a high-protein regime experienced a disturbance in the stability of their gut microbiomes. And this gut instability led to a 23.3 percent reduction in time trial performance.
In other words, problems with your microbiome can knock you off your game.
Conversely, the researchers found that the athletes who followed a high-carbohydrate diet had stable gut microbiomes — and performed better netting an improved time trial performance of 6.5 percent.
According to Dr. Justin Roberts, Associate Professor in Health and Exercise Nutrition and co-author of the study: “These results suggest that athletic performance may be linked with gut microbial stability, where athletes who had more stable microbial communities consistently performed best in each dietary intervention compared to those with more turbulent gut microbiota.”
And while the researchers cannot be certain that the high amount of protein in the body was entirely responsible for the significant drop in time-trial performance, it was found that there were certainly changes to the gut microbiome following a short-term high-protein diet which appeared to be associated with performance.
As the authors point out, gut imbalance impacts different people in different ways, but it’s possible that “the changes to the gut microbiome could impact intestinal permeability or nutrient absorption, or the messages between the gut and the brain, affecting perceived effort and therefore performance.”
Enhance your athletic performance on and off the court
What can you do to restore balance to an out-of-whack microbiome to improve your exercise or athletic performance — and reap all those other health benefits?
First, it’s essential to limit your sugar intake, since research shows that sugar sneaks into the microbiome, tipping it to the dark side.
You should also avoid common medications that help bad bacteria thrive in your gut whenever possible.
But, perhaps most importantly, add fermented foods to your diet. According to one study, these types of food, which are rich in good bacteria, significantly increase microbial diversity.
Great fermented foods to try include:
Fiber is a valuable must-have nutrient, when fiber and fermented foods were put to the test, fiber lagged way behind. It may keep you regular but doesn’t appear to diversify gut bacteria.
Finally, consider taking a probiotic supplement, which is the easiest way to improve the levels of healthy bacteria in your microbiome to promote balance and diversity.
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A stable gut helps elite athletes perform better – ScienceDaily