How The Gut Bacteria Of Athletes Differs To Those Who Are Sedentary

The link between fitness and your microbiome.

athlete gut bacteria
Image: iStock

Research published this week by Nature Medicine shows the microbiome of athletes differs to those who are sedentary. Turns out that a strain of bacteria belonging to the Veillonella genus is discovered in high doses in marathon runners in comparison to sedentary people.
If we can transplant the faecal matter of healthy individuals into those who suffer from gastrointestinal infections and other conditions, does that mean we could also become pro-runners if the samples come from athletes? Wouldn’t that be a great quick fix! 
When we perform anaerobic exercises, such as high-intensity workouts or endurance sports, the body breaks down glucose into energy which creates pyruvate and further creates lactate or lactic acid. You’ve probably heard of lactic acid because it’s what builds up in our muscles and can cause cramps and pain post-exercise. 
However, after closely examining the faeces of individuals before and after running the Boston marathon and compared them with sedentary individuals, researchers found that they harvested bacteria which metabolise lactic acid at a high speed. 

gut bacteria athletes
Image: iStock

The bacteria, veillonella, behaves in a way that reduces muscle fatigue by using the lactate and converting it to the short-chain fatty-acids which help reduce inflammation. The result of this means that athletes with veillonella microbes can improve their performance due to lactate being metabolised by the bacteria and therefore may enhance their overall output. 
I recently ran my 40th marathon before I turned 40 and want to know if this happens to be one of the reasons I am able to run as many as I have? However, there are also other theories that could explain the ability of athletes such as their diet, sleep, environment etc. which could also contribute to the health of their microbiome
Scientists are now speculating whether they could produce a probiotic with this strain of bacteria, which may help people improve their athletic performance. This is a whole new territory, however fundamentally I think there’s no quick fix. Ultimately, this should encourage people to get out there and get active, which overtime may produce the same bacteria. We already know that exercise can improve our mood via endorphin release and there’s more research being released suggesting a link between exercise improving our gut composition. 
Watch this space.
ben lucas
Written by Ben Lucas, PT & Director of Flow Athletic.
between exercise improving our gut composition.

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