We’re all athletes. Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Our bodies were designed to move! But, believe it or not, what is inside your gut (or missing from inside your gut) may be inhibiting you from reaching your optimal performance.
We may be headed to the Olympics or to the CrossFit Games or to our home to try and keep up with our five-year-old, but movement will always be a part of our lives. We’re all told that if we put in enough work, we’ll get results, so we go to the gym, we work-out at home and we run or bike or swim. But too often we don’t see the desired results. We don’t lose weight. Our performance falls short. We feel tired and sluggish instead of energized and motivated and we have a hard time recovering.
The truth is that there are lots of things working against us and holding us back. Things such as the food we eat, our environment, and the demands of life in general (I don’t think my great-great-grandma ever had to grab a granola bar while rushing out of the house to take her children to gymnastics). We just live in a different world. We don’t have to be as active as we used to be and so we fall back on being more sedentary than we want to be.
Have you heard that 70% of our immune system is in our gut? Our gut actually has its own immune system, the “gut-associated lymphatic tissue” (GALT) that contains 70-80% of our body’s immune cells. It makes sense for our guts to be strong because our gut is where we process a large portion of “foreign” substances (… and yes, I’m pretty sure candy corn (which doesn’t resemble corn in any sense) could be classified as “foreign”). Having such a strong immune system in our gut helps our body guard and protect itself.
Priming and supporting the gut by consuming probiotics (much like you’d do a warm-up before a workout) is especially important for optimal athletic performance. Whether you are a competitive athlete, or a “mom”lete or “dad”lete, improving your gut health could help increase your immune system and boost your physical performance because certain probiotics strains can increase absorption of key nutrients such as amino acids from protein, and affect properties of the food we consume.
Studies have shown that athletes of all abilities and fitness levels can benefit from specific strains of probiotics. Adding these specific probiotics leads to:
- A healthier gut
- Less inflammation
- More endurance
- Better insulin sensitivity
- Quicker recovery
- Less oxidative stress
- Improved energy expenditure
Probiotic strains that can help athletic performance (along with their specific functions include:
- S. Boulardii – A beneficial fungus that helps balance good and bad gut bacteria and is also an anti-inflammatory which helps with muscle recovery following exercise.
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus – A beneficial bacteria that breaks down lactose, lowers blood sugar, helps good bacteria grow, regulates the gut and boosts the immune system.
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus – A beneficial bacteria that regulates the gut and is antimicrobial, which means it helps prevent bad bacteria from growing.
- Bifidobacterium Breve – A beneficial bacteria that helps with clarity of skin, reduces allergies, aids in digestion and can fight fat gain.
What you’re missing from your workout is smaller than you think! If you aren’t taking a probiotic you should be! These powerful little microorganisms can help your body recover and perform no matter what your athletic abilities or ambitions.