Your gut plays a major role in keeping your energy levels up and improving your performance. Keeping a healthy and well performing digestive system has been shown to increase vitality, enjoyment and quality of life.
The gut microbiome is teeming with trillions of microbes and extreme physical exercise can cause dysbiosis, which is a major underlying cause of many diseases.
Gut dysbiosis or an imbalance of the gut microbiome results in an unhealthy gut and can severely compromise performance. Here are 6 signs to indicate that your gut health could be impairing your performance.
You seem to catch every bug that goes around
Unknown by many people, the gut plays a major role in keeping the immune system healthy and functioning properly. More than 70% of your body’s immune cells are lining the gut walls. Hence, it just seems obvious that to boost your immune health, you need to keep your gut healthy.
Good immunity is critical to all athletes because the days you miss out on training are days lost honing your performance and athletic skills. A 1999 ground-breaking study found a direct co-relation between digestive health and immune health. However, the study stopped short of finding the exact reason and causative effects of the link.
A group of scientists in 2015 found that mice with diverse and well-balanced microbiome were able to excel at physical activities as compared to mice with sub-optimal microbiome.
Most athletes push their bodies to the extreme and are at a greater risk of catching colds and falling sick. But, their immunity kicks in at the last minute to protect them.
This is because of their healthy gut microbiome which gives the body an immune boost. Without probiotic diversity in a healthy gut, your immune system may not be able to fight off infections and illnesses.
A study found that almost 60% athletes are at a severe risk of upper respiratory infections right after a competition, which can be significantly reduced with the help of probiotics.
Your muscles are always sore
Inflammation is a major inhibitor to muscle recovery. Your body needs to recover and regenerate muscle fibers after strenuous exercises and training sessions. The gut, particularly the friendly bacteria living in it play a significant role in controlling inflammation and allowing the muscles, ligaments, and tendons to recover.
Chronic inflammation is the result of a sub-par immune system which slows recovery and may cause a number of diseases. Inflammation also interferes with your athletic performance and can in turn severely affect the integrity of your gut microbiome.
Research shows that improving the microbiome balance can enhance gut health which in turn reduces systemic inflammation, providing both short term relief and long term risk reduction.
Your energy levels are disappointing
As an athlete you would be paying careful attention to your diet and nutritional requirements. On the face value, your body should find it very easy to regulate energy levels and give you a boost when you need it the most.
However, it is not that easy. Your gut health plays a critical role in insulin regulation, metabolism modulation, and supplying your mitochondria (cell’s powerhouse) with enough nutrients. These factors can greatly influence energy production and energy regulation in the body.
During a competition, you should be able to rely on your energy stores to beat the competition. However, if you feel that even with all efforts you are lacking somewhere, then it is time to look beyond plain nutrition.
Your gut microbiome is responsible for ensuring that you operate at peak performance. Lactobacillus species are known to fight fatigue by speeding up breakdown of lactic acid molecules. Probiotics also help control redox functions and delay fatigue symptoms.
You can’t sleep through the night that impacts your performance
Emerging evidence suggests that a good night’s rest may have more to do with gut health than stress or mental health. Your gut and the brain are in constant communication with each other through the bi-directional communication channel – vagus nerve.
This nerve carries neurotransmitters or chemical messengers to and fro between the gut and brain. In fact, as per a recent study on laboratory mice, 90% of the messages are sent by the gut to the brain.
A healthy gut can manufacture and regulate the production of sleep essential hormones, like serotonin, melatonin, GABA, and tryptophan. These hormones help you stay calm and make sure that your body’s natural circadian rhythm is true to your inner biological clock.
Probiotics in your gut microbiome play a crucial role in keeping your brain on the same page as your inner biological clock. However, when harmful bacteria dominate the gut microbiome, causing dysbiosis, there is confusion among the signals sent to the brain.
Sleep is vital to your athletic performance without which you won’t be able to recover or give your best.
You suffer from food intolerances
Almost a third of athletes complain of gastrointestinal issues. These can be due to any reason, such as over-exertion, build-up of free radicals, and excess proteins, among others.
However, food intolerance can only be due to an unhealthy gut. This can impair your immune system, digestive health, and nutrient absorption – all of which hampers your athletic performance.
Scientists now believe that food intolerance could be due to poor quality of bacteria in the gut, which can lead to difficulty digesting trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea.
You are prone to anxiety and moodiness
Compromised gut function can easily affect mental health causing anxiety, depression, and stress. This can again be attributed to the bi-directional communication between the gut and brain via the gut-brain axis.
Your gut microbiome may be to blame if you find it difficult to deal with stress and suffer from an attitude problem. As an athlete your performance depends equally on your physical capabilities and mental integrity. You cannot afford to buckle under performance pressure which is why you need to make sure your gut is healthy.
Salient Aspects of Gut Health
Gut health is closely associated with diversity and balance of the gut microbiome. By avoiding processed foods, stress triggers, and over-exertion, you can get your gut back on the path of recovery.
You can speed up the process by including probiotics to your supplement list. Make sure you choose a supplement designed for athletic advantage.