No Gut Health, No Glory: 7 Weird Ways it Actually Helps Your Gains
Trust your gut...
From trying out all sorts of new equipment and machines, to watching endless videos on the best ways to achieve those washboard abs through methods like spot reduction (which has been deemed a myth, BTW - let us spare you the time and frustration!), you may feel like you’ve tried every trick in the book at this point.
We certainly know how it feels to be passionate and determined on maximizing your gains - and don’t get us wrong, we wholeheartedly encourage the enthusiasm! However, it's easy to go down a rabbit hole of fixating on specific aspects of training, which can lead to us losing sight of the big picture.
What we’re getting at is this: It’s crucial to take a step back every now and then, in order to understand the importance of a multi-faceted approach to peak health. You might just find that taking an "overall/holistic" view will reward you with even the most specific goals, like moving up a weight class or getting that six pack you’ve been after.
It’s no secret that regular exercise helps promote a healthy microbiome (the microorganisms in our gut), increasing the different kinds of microbial species in the digestive tract and helping bacteria to flourish... But now, a growing body of research suggests that this phenomenon goes both ways - with a diverse gut microbiome linked to improved physical performance as well.
That’s right, our gut is one of the most important yet underutilized systems in fitness.
While we're only just beginning to truly understand all the incredible ways our gut health impacts our wellbeing, the evidence is clear: A diverse, healthy gut microbiome can improve our body's power in all sorts of ways we could never imagine. It turns out there’s a lot more going on behind that rectus abdominus than meets the eye.
Let’s explore the symbiotic relationship between the bacteria in our gut and our bodies with these 7 unexpected ways gut health impacts our physical performance:
7. Gut Health = Boosted Immunity
For starters, having a healthy gut is key to maintaining a strong immune system, warding off illness and even chronic diseases to keep you in tip top shape for getting ripped. With nearly 80% of the immune tissue residing in the digestive tract, some examples of good bacterium include:
Lactobacillus, which has been linked to lower cholesterol and mitigating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and certain strains of Bifidobacterium genus, which decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.
6. Improved Nutrient Absorption & Energy Conversion
You are what you eat, unless of course what you eat is going straight through you, over course. A healthy gut will reduce unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea and loose stools, ensuring your body is able to effectively digest and absorb nutrients.
Furthermore, digestion is the basis for all sorts of bodily processes like converting food to energy and rehabilitating muscles and bones for recovery, an essential factor when you're working on your physique.
5. The Gut/Brain Connection: Powering Neural Function
Ever heard of the gut/brain connection? When it comes to the mind and body, everything really is connected. It’s true that gut health and cognitive function are more closely related than previously thought, with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (think "fight or flight" & stress management) being largely controlled by the microbiome. Heady stuff, we know.
4. The Gut Regulates Mood & Hormone Balance
Furthermore, you might be familiar with serotonin and dopamine, aka the ‘happy chemicals’ that induce feelings of pleasure, and power your brain’s reward system. What you might not be aware of, however, is that these hormones all stem from the gut. In other words, a happy gut = a happy mind. Wild, right?
3. Facilitates More Functional Hydration
Hydration, hydration, hydration. It’s seemingly all you hear about nowadays. What if we told you there was a way to hydrate that doesn't require you to gulp down a gallon jug of H2O? (Although that never hurts!)
In case you haven’t caught on yet - the gut microbiome wears many hats in the workplace that is your body, one of them being an assistant in the hydration process, by playing a role in the cellular transport of solutes through the gut.
2. Unlocks More Energy & Endurance
Sure, it might be an obvious conclusion that a diet that’s good for your gut is also good for your body’s energy. The connection goes beyond that correlation, however:
A 2019 study conducted by the Harvard Medical School found higher numbers of a bacteria called Veillonella in the stool samples of marathon runners, when compared to the levels found in samples from sedentary individuals.
So, why is that important? Veillonella bacteria converts lactate into propionate, a short-chain fatty acid that boosts our energy levels. A healthy dose of this microbe in the gut is the secret sauce to more stamina and endurance.
1. Assists Recovery & Reduces Inflammation
Finally, a healthy microbiome’s duty isn’t over when the workout’s finished. Exercise naturally triggers an acute inflammatory response, leading to muscle soreness and fatigue.
Thanks to the immune and digestive system’s control over the body’s inflammatory mechanism, a healthy gut is imperative to the muscle recovery process so you can get back out there again ASAP.
What Are Some Easy Ways to Boost Gut Health?
So, now it’s no secret that the bacteria in our gut is essential to all kinds of processes in our bodies - producing vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids necessary for immune function, digestion, mood regulation, and more.
But how can you support the health and growth of these microorganisms for a healthy gut? It all starts with foods rich in prebiotics, probiotics and fiber.
Cue the notorious yogurt advertisements targeted at women everywhere, riddled with vague notions of slimming down and cutting jean sizes. Well, as much as we hate to validate exploitative and sensationalist marketing tactics, those ads are partially rooted in truth...
Greek yogurt, specifically, contains helpful probiotics like Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. In addition, seek out aged cheeses and fermented foods like sourdough bread, miso, kombucha, green olives, kimchi and even tempeh to feed your microbiome its daily dose of good bacteria.
Gear up for a healthy gut and watch the incredible follow-on effects of this simple lifestyle change - as you can see, your gains will thank you for it!
Maggie Johnson | MME Lifestyle Contributor
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