Gut Health and Athletes

Why is your gut important?

Imagine the lush Amazon rainforest of South America. Each species of plant relies on another which together house and feed all the insects and animals that reside there. Start chopping trees or introduce a weed or deadly fungus and suddenly everything changes. Similarly, your gut likes to be a harmonious and balanced rainforest, fed regularly, watered and not bombarded with unwanted visitors.  In short, keeping the right gut balance requires the right kinds of food and liquid and in balanced quantities.

What we know so far?

Its early days in terms of what we really know and understand about the gut but we are learning that, in particular, the bacteria in our gut, may influence mood, stress, sleep, inflammation, immunity, availability and delivery of nutrients to the body and a host of other health related conditions and diseases.

 

Can your gut really make you perform better?

Symptoms such as diarrhoea during a competition can be a stopper. However its more than that, given the influence of the gut on inflammation and immunity alone, then the gut most certainly indirectly influences performance. 

 

How can you create and nurture the ‘Amazon rainforest’ in your gut? 

  1. Feed it with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – Aim for at least 7 different types each day.
  2. Include foods with beneficial bacteria (see list below) daily. You get the added benefit of a pile of other nutrients in those foods too.
  3. Include foods with prebiotics (see list below) which act like fertiliser for all the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut.
  4. Train your gut. Eating regular meals and snacks and practicing your competition nutrition in training not only helps your gut learn and adapt, like your muscles, but you get the bonus of delivering necessary nutrients to your gut and body all day long.

 

Foods rich with beneficial bacteria

  • Probiotic and cultured yogurt (add to cereal or as a recovery snack)
  • Kefir yoghurt (e.g. add 100ml to smoothies)
  • Cultured Cheese (watch the fat content)
  • Light sour cream
  • Kombucha tea
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso

 

Foods rich in prebiotics

  • Wheat grain 
  • Raw wheat bran (e.g. add to cereal)
  • Garlic, leek and onions
  • Banana
  • Asparagus 
  • Artichoke
    *These vegetables contain higher amounts of prebiotics when eaten raw*
 

References

 

Informative and thought provoking videos about the gut:

Disclaimer: Information in this article or on the video links may not necessarily represent your individual needs. Seek advice from a medical or nutrition professional regarding dietary concerns or nutritional supplements.