There is a unique and multi-directional relationship that exists between gut health, the gut microbiome and athletic performance. On some levels this is obvious and on others it gets a bit more scientific, but let’s go through these points systematically to better understand the goal of today’s article.
Point #1 – Athletes Have A Superior Microbiome Profile
The best available human evidence strongly points to the fact that athletes and very active people tend to have more diversity in their gut microbiome which includes a greater abundance of butyrate producing bacteria. This gives us a strong indication that butyrate has an enhanced role to play in the life of athletic individuals, which makes sense on a number of levels.
Point #2 – Athlete’s NEED A Superior Microbiome Profile
This is true for a variety of reasons that are relevant for both short-term and long-term performance. In the long-term, we know that a diverse microbiome with ample butyrate producing bacteria plays an incredibly important role in maintaining a strong immune system. Frequent sickness or periods of feeling unwell are not conducive to athletic performance due to either compromising the quality of training/competition or being sidelined for an extended period of time.
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In the short term, it is intuitive to acknowledge that dealing with annoying GI issues like bloating, gas, irregularity, and cramping can greatly reduce the enjoyment of training and competition and certainly compromise performance as well. Both of these reasons above indicate additional reasons why a strong diet and sound supplementation routine are fundamental.
Butyrate, the Ultimate Gut Optimizer
Point #3 – Pre-Workout Supplements, Intense Training & GI Symptoms
This is where it gets interesting. Athlete’s who are regularly engaged in intense activity, including Crossfitters, may also experience short-term gastrointestinal distress which occurs as a result of very strenuous physical activity and can lead to dehydration, slow the movement of the GI tract and manifest as nausea, bloating, pain and even constipation/diarrhea. This is known as Exercise-associated gastrointestinal (GI) distress and may be more likely to occur when exercise duration is >2 hours and heat and/or running are also involved. The use of pre-workout supplements may also contribute to these negative symptoms in some people.
While there is little questioning the fact that the right pre-workout supplements used in the right way can contribute positively to physical performance, we must also acknowledge the fact that certain components of these products have the potential to cause gastrointestinal issues in some people. Common ingredients in these supplements include caffeine, sodium bi-carbonate, taurine, arginine, as well as various sweeteners and herbals. For the right person, or should I say the wrong person, one or more of these compounds may contribute to negative gastrointestinal symptoms based on the amounts present and an individual’s response to them. The obvious short-term response to this could be to play around with the quantity of pre-workout used or even to dilute with more water, but a more long-term view towards enhancing your microbiome to become more resilient may also help.
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Let’s explore that next.
Point #4 – The Role Of Butyrate & Butyrate Producing Bacteria In Your Performance
As I mentioned earlier, being someone who workouts out at a high level increases the likelihood you have a diverse microbiome with more butyrate producing bacteria than the average person. But there are levels to this and a number of other things one can do from the diet, lifestyle and supplementation perspective to further enhance their microbiome and the presence of butyrate in their digestive tract. Research in this area is still growing, but there are a few things we know for sure.
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms Can Limit Your Potential
- “Gastrointestinal symptoms are common and a limiting factor in prolonged strenuous exercise.”
- I pulled this quote from a 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis, and quite frankly it says it all regarding how important it is for athletes to do their utmost to maintain good gut health in both the short and long-term.
- Butyrate Has A Big Role To Play
Now we get to the really good stuff!
Quick refresher first though.
GutArmor is a butyrate containing supplement that delivers the highest bioavailable and readily absorbable form of butyrate called tributyrin directly to your GI tract. The presence of butyrate in your system can be enhanced in other ways too, a topic we’ve covered in a previous piece.
Here’s why its relevant to today’s subject matter:
As per recent work out of the International Journal Of Sports Medicine butyrate has the potential to reduce bodily inflammation, enhance recovery and contribute to the more efficient use of energy during exercise.
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But what about all those pre-workout and exercise related GI symptoms we talked about earlier?
Early evidence suggests enhancing one’s microbiome through diet and supplementation can help with these symptoms. Butyrate is a big reason for this because it has a significant role to play in ensuring proper fluid transport through the digestive tract, keeping the digestive muscles contracting and moving properly and maintaining the strength of the gut barrier. Although studied in the context of IBS, we already have initial human evidence demonstrating that butyrate supplementation can improve constipation, gas, diarrhea, nausea and bloating.
Final Thoughts & A Look To The Future
If you are a physical competitor of any kind and are dealing with gastrointestinal issues arising from performance-related activities like pre-workout supplements, overall workout load or factors related to your diet/lifestyle – you need to know that there are both short and long-term consequences to your health and athletic potential. While the exact answer to specific individual issues can vary, there is little question of the fact that the gut microbiome, and compounds like butyrate that modify it, have a role to play. This is, quite literally, the cutting edge of optimizing sports performance. Why else would a brand-new paper out of the Journal Of Sport And Health Science state that postbiotics (like GutArmor’s tributyrin) have ergogenic potential? Ergogenic, by the way, means performance boosting.
The future is bright!
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