Could a healthy gut help you keep active?
When it comes to exercise the last thing you probably think about is your gut health, am I right? Instead we focus on running that little bit farther, exercising for just a little bit longer, seeing if we can beat our previous performance, lift a heavier weight and focus on how many calories we burn in the process. However, when it comes to exercising your gut could either be your best workout buddy or your worst nightmare! Your gut can actually help to boost your sport’s performance! Want to know how and why you should train your gut to be an athletic team player? Read this blog to find out more!
Why an active gut helps an active lifestyle
The gut plays an important part in our ability to handle stress, recover from workouts and makes sure that we perform at our best too. When the gut works properly essential nutrients, amino acids and other necessary compounds of food are absorbed into your body. These important components are then used by the body in a variety of ways to support your mood, muscle, energy levels and metabolic function.
5 ways your gut can boost your active lifestyle
1) Gut health regulates inflammation
An unhealthy gut can lead to inflammation in other areas of the body which, in turn, can cause plaque build-up in the arteries and an increased risk of heart disease. What’s more, with a weakened gut we aren’t able to repair our muscles at the same rate which means that when inflammation occurs, the chances of injury increase.
2) An athlete’s diet can spell disaster for your gut!
Nutrition is essential, particularly if you exercise a lot as you will need more of certain dietary food groups to maintain and aid the repair of muscles and joints. Usually this requires a high intake of protein however, these high protein diets can negatively affect your friendly good gut bacteria! This result usually occurs as a result of amino acid fermentation which results in harmful by-products that can aid the build-up of plaque. It is thought that animal protein is most likely to have this dangerous effect.
Now, that’s not to say you should scrap protein entirely! Rather, look at your sources of protein instead, if they are all animal based such as chicken and meat you may want to consider switching to some friendlier plant-based alternatives like lentils and chickpeas. Healthy plant-based protein powders are another option if you feel you need a boost – my favourite is SunWarrior’s Natural Warrior Blend.
Not only does this protein powder help to increase your good cholesterol, it is a fab source of energy that’s perfect for amplifying your fitness levels. It also contains a blend of essential amino acids such as glutamine which helps to repair the gut lining for better absorption of nutrients.
3) Manage your stress hormones
When you exercise intensely and regularly your body uses and produces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. The production of these chemicals is actually beneficial during exercise as they help you to stay alert and perform at your best. What’s more, if you burn out all of your cortisol through exercise, you’re less likely to experience emotional stress and you’ll be able to manage any current stress better too.
That being said, having optimal gut health is fundamental to experiencing these beneficial effects. If your gastrointestinal tract isn’t healthy enough to cope with this cortisol and adrenaline it can cause other harmful toxins to slip through to the bloodstream causing all sorts of havoc!
4) Boost your brain
Your gut also produces a number of important neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin, dopamine, GABA) which are important for regulating your mood, appetite and energy levels. Without these neurotransmitters we are unable to regulate our blood pressure and heart rate, will have poor motivation and energy levels, and reduced resilience to stress. All of these factors play an important role in how often and why we exercise in the first place.
5) Reduce inflammation, fatigue and muscle soreness
According to Harvard research, good gut bacteria may be beneficial for helping athletes. It is thought that certain good bacteria could potentially help process food for energy, reduce inflammation, as well as reduce the chemicals that cause fatigue and muscle soreness. Although the results from this research sound promising, it’s important to note that extensive research is still needed in this area.
Support your gut – support your exercise
So, we’ve looked at how supporting your gut can do wonders for boosting your exercise performance, motivation levels and overall digestive health and wellbeing. Taking steps towards improving your diet such as including more nutrient rich, plant-based sources of vitamins, minerals and proteins can help to support your gut health. Consider topping up with a high-quality vegan protein powder like SunWarrior if you feel you need a boost.
If you exercise frequently keeping your electrolytes balanced is essential. When we exercise we sweat, and through this sweat we lose important electrolytes. It’s so important to replace lost electrolytes to prevent deficiency and to look after our muscle and bone health. Luckily, I have the perfect solution – Balance Mineral Drink. This handy drink is great post-workout as it contains a nourishing blend of minerals to prevent fatigue including magnesium, zinc, potassium, as well as your recommended daily amount of vitamin D.
This vitamin is not only important for strengthening our bones, but it also helps to regulate gut inflammation and balances our gut microflora. Similarly, zinc also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can help to support our immune system. Magnesium is great for supporting our muscles and can help to keep those pesky muscle cramps at bay!
Three top reasons to consider using probiotics if you exercise frequently:
- They can strengthen your immune health which can be suppressed through frequent endurance and heavy training exercise (these can make upper respiratory issues more likely to occur.
- When we exercise we increase the amount of oxidative stress we put on our body which can eventually lead to cell damage and premature ageing if we’re not careful. As well as antioxidant rich fruits such as berries, probiotics are also thought to help boost our antioxidants that help to reverse and prevent this damage from taking place.
- Probiotics can even increase your energy and endurance levels by improving your nutrient absorption and improving your digestion.
Here at Jan de Vries, we love Optibac’s honest approach when it comes to probiotics. Any claims they make are supported by thorough research and science so you know that their probiotics are effective and high quality! For general use I’d suggest Optibac’s Probiotics for Every Day however, if you’re looking for support in maintaining good cholesterol levels I’d recommend Optibac’s Probiotics For Your Cholesterol Capsules.
These clever capsules contain ingredients that are scientifically proven to help maintain normal cholesterol levels. The strains of bacteria used help to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from food, as well as reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver.