The Role Gut Health Plays In Fitness Performance, From Experts
Trying to work out when you're gassy and bloated is unpleasant, to say the least. While the physical symptoms of an upset stomach can make it painful to exercise, is something deeper going on? We dug into the research and consulted gastroenterologists to find out how the gut microbiome interferes with fitness performance.
In other words, the gut is responsible for more bodily functions than it may seem, and the effects extend to physical fitness.
How the gut affects fitness performance.
When it comes to fitness, research suggests a healthy microbiome can improve athletic performance.
One study published in the journal Nature Medicine found a consistent bacterial strain (Veillonella atypica) in marathon runners. When that bacteria was transferred to mice, they saw an improvement in running speed1. "What's cool is that this particular bacteria has the ability to break down lactic acid, which is the acid that builds up in muscles during endurance exercise," Bulsiewicz explains.
Because of the gut-brain axis, dysbiosis in the gut microbiome can also lead to brain fog and decreased energy levels—both of which can decrease exercise motivation and endurance. Unfortunately, the less frequently you work out, the less healthy your gut will become, which is why it's important to prioritize even small daily movements, like walking.
How to improve gut health for better fitness performance.
The relationship between gut health and exercise is mutualistic, meaning both benefit from the other. If you struggle to do intense workouts due to lack of energy and gastrointestinal issues, start small. Daily walks, stretches, and yoga classes all add up. These exercises from Pilates instructor Lia Bartha are specifically targeted to improve gut health.
Incorporating more pre- and probiotics through diet and supplements is another way to increase diversity in the gut microbiome.*
"In athletes, the administration of different Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains might help maintain a state of general health," a study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science states.* This simultaneously enhances immune function, reduces oxidative stress, and increases energy2 from plant-carbohydrate sources, they write.*
Gut health is directly related to exercise performance. Simultaneously, exercising regularly can improve gut health. Making movement a priority, eating gut-friendly foods, and incorporating targeted strains of probiotics can help manage GI symptoms and enhance your fitness performance.*
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.