Spartans our bodies need energy and we get that from the food we eat. No surprise, right? But, what is the gatekeeper between food consumption and the energy needed for athletic performance? It’s your gut – especially the gut flora.
There are millions and millions of bacteria in your gut – in fact, there are ten times more bacteria than cells in your gut. Ten times! What are these flora doing in addition to processing food?
They can identify pathogens (dangerous compounds)
Bolster and improve the health of the intestines
Promote the growth of new cells
What happens to athletes when the gut isn’t working well? It gets in the way of performance, recovery and long-term health and sustainability of athletic performance at a high level like competition. To be more specific, there’s a cascading effect that starts very small but ends up degrading your abilities to do what you want to do in the gym, at a race or in any competitive setting. It starts with:
Too few interferons in your gut. Interferons (a type on immune cell in your body) are they’re released from cells in your gut and are important in helping to fight viruses. A healthy gut microbiome supports interferons. An unhealthy gut means fewer interferons and that can hurt your immune system. With that, the possibility of catching cold and suffering from other viruses increases.
If your immune system is stressed, your body’s ability to repair the kind of inflammation that often comes with strenuous exercise is impaired. This can lead to an increased possibility of increasing the injuries sustained during training.
Your digestion is also compromised, thus reducing the efficiency of processing nutrients for energy.
If this continues, you’ll probably not be able to improve and sustain the kind of athletic performance we Spartans are aiming for.
Luckily, it’s relatively easy to keep your gut healthy.
First, eat healthy. We all know this, but don’t cut corners if you’re exercising at a high level. The difference between good performance and great performance can sometimes be very small – so you need to be disciplined if you’ve set ambitious goals for yourself.
Give your gut what it wants.
Probiotic supplements are very helpful. Yogurt is a common source of friendly bacteria. Many specialized probiotic supplements are very helpful, too.
Some other options might be fermented foods, like sauerkraut.
As we’re exercising, our gut normally performs silently and behind the scenes. That’s how you want to keep it because it usually draws our attention after something has gone wrong. Support you gut with good eating habits and you’ll keep your performance at a high level.
KEY TERMS & IDEAS
Gut health is key to thwarting viruses, processing food for energy and repairing the damage of inflammation. Keeping the gut healthy is relatively simple. It’s worth it because the gut and especially gut flora provide a necessary foundation for your health.
Gut flora. “Bacteria and other organisms that live inside the intestines. They help digest food. Vitamins such as biotin and vitamin K are made by gut flora. Also called gut microflora, intestinal flora, intestinal microflora, and microflora.” (National Cancer Institute)
Probiotics. “Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when ingested, provide numerous health benefits.” (Healthline)
LINKS & RESOURCES:
Follow Dr. Nada on:
Sage Tonic www.sagetonic.com
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“Microflora,” in NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms, National Cancer Institute, accessed January 2019.
“Probiotics 101: A Simple Beginner’s Guide,” Healthline, accessed January 2019.
Morgan Bickenbach-Davies, “Here’s How Your Gut Plays a Major Role in Your Athletic Performance,” Braveheart Coaching, February 22, 2017, accessed January 2019.
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Producer: Marion Abrams, Madmotion, llc.
Writer and Host: Nada Milosavljevic MD, JD
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