Our gut contains trillions of bacteria, with issues like depression, anxiety, physical performance, and your body's ability to recover, all modified by your gut microbes. The need to prioritise gut health is often associated with poor digestion, bloating or more severe IBS issues. However, regardless of the feeling of a healthy digestive system, the gut microbiome significantly impacts every aspect of physical and mental health. Whilst we are quick to grab a recovery shake before and after a workout, the power of gut health has yet to be recognised in its ability to improve our performance.
Let's start with the basics…
What's Gut Health?
The gut is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes, which is known as the gut microbiome. Whilst your body's bacteria isn’t isolated to the gut, and bacteria microbes are found on the skin, nose, and mouth, the gut plays the leading role. We acquire these bacteria during birth and the first years of life, forming the foundation of our health. When it comes to understanding if your gut is healthy, there is no single way to tell; it can be a collection of factors. Constipation, diarrhoea or stomach cramps can be signs of an unhealthy gut; however, just because you don't have these symptoms doesn't mean you have good gut health.
A healthy gut provides the barrier preventing viruses, fungi and 'bad' bacteria from entering the bloodstream when functioning properly. It is estimated that 60-70 million Americans suffer from digestive problems, and poor gut health is a very common problem. So regardless of no visible symptoms of an unhealthy gut, everyone can benefit from taking care of their gut bacteria - there is a lot to look after.
Gut Health for Physical Performance
A growing body of research has highlighted the importance of gut health in athletic performance. If you understand the importance of exercise, whether going to the gym, cycling, running or doing yoga, then prioritising a healthy gut microbiome will help improve your performance and your body's ability to recover. A review published in 2020 concluded that the variability in responses to physical activity can be explained by differences in people's gut microbiota. A further study on athletes concluded that gut health plays a crucial role in controlling oxidative stress (the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage) and inflammatory responses. Less oxidative stress and lower inflammation are proven to reduce muscle damage and lead to faster recovery. Other benefits, such as improving your metabolism and increasing energy expenditure during endurance exercise, have all been linked to a healthy gut.
Harvard University took a more specific approach to better understand how gut health can impact the performance of runners by taking samples of gut microbiomes from athletes before and after running the Boston Marathon. The study found that when the body is under physical duress, there's a spike in the gut bacteria that enables the body to break down lactic acids. The healthier the gut, the more able the body is to break down lactic acid.
Gut Health Boosts Energy Levels
Having a healthy gut is not only crucial during exercise, but there's a significant body of evidence that shows a healthy microbiome can improve your natural energy levels. So if you struggle with getting to the starting line, then considering the health of your gut might be the kickstart you need. When your stomach is happy and healthy, it can:
Increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source for use and storage at the cellular level.
Supplying essential metabolites to your mitochondria – your cells’ powerhouse that generates most of the chemical energy needed to power the cells’ biochemical reactions.
Regulating energy harvest, storage, and expenditure.
Gut Health for Recovery and Improved Sleep
It's not new news that good sleep quality can affect performance. Athletes have long known that sleep is needed to perform, but it's less well-recognised that the gut is the centre for crucial sleep-enhancing hormones and neurotransmitters. As a result, gut microbiome imbalance can be associated with poor sleep quality. This is because the gut microbiome controls levels of hormones such as cortisol, serotonin, and GABA that affect sleep quality. The microbiome also affects the production of the sleep hormone melatonin – essential for proper sleep and wake cycles.
How to Improve Gut Health
Improving gut health takes time, just like any positive change to the body requires a commitment. If you’re not sure where to start, scroll to find your gut health solution to help improve physical performance.
For All-Round Gut Health
Prebiotics and probiotics allow the development of a healthy gut that can enhance performance. They feed and fertilise good bacteria in the gut so it can multiply and repopulate the internal microbiome. So, if you’re not sure where to begin with improving your gut health, PREBIOTIC + PROBIOTIC is a good place to start. Our bestselling formula is 100% vegan, powered by 15 billion spores (probiotic) and organic inulin (prebiotic).
For IBS Symptoms
If symptoms like a bloated stomach, painful cramps and poor digestion are slowing you down during workouts, a debloating supplement might be the support your gut needs. DEBLOAT+ is formulated with 17 digestive enzymes to get things moving, plus anti-inflammatories ginger, turmeric and cinnamon to break up gas and deflate the stomach. Take twice daily at mealtimes to feel the difference.
For Post-Meal Bloating
If you feel like you’ve swallowed a balloon every time you eat, DEBLOAT FOOD + PREBIOTIC is a triple threat when it comes to your gut health. It’s formulated with carminative (gas-reducing) ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, digestive aids papin and maqui fruit, and good bacteria-feeding prebiotics to bring back balance. Ideal to support the gut if you’re bulking up on protein while training, mix half a teaspoon with any hot or cold drink (it’s great in shakes and smoothies) and sip after meals.
Want to learn more about prebiotics and probiotics? See what our bestselling formula can do in just 24 hours.