If you’ve hit a pandemic plateau in your gym gains, you might be surprised to know it’s probably not a lack of lifting effort that’s doing you dirty. Instead, gut health might be the sneaky issue that is cutting your ability to add significant muscle and metabolise fat. Irrespective of how much time you spend throwing weights around and grunting like a madman, you’ll continue to struggle in your aesthetic endeavour unless you heal your gut health. So if you want to know how to boost your performance in the gym, you need to know how to improve gut health.
Understanding the role gut health plays in regulating your body’s absorption of nutrients and vitamins is essential to getting your internal engine running at optimum performance. The first step in learning how to improve gut health is tackling microbiome. “The human gut is home to trillions of microbes — some good for health, some not so good,” nutritionist and Uncle Toby’s ambassador Kathleen Alleaume tells Man of Many. “These microbial communities that inhabit your gut, collectively known as the microbiome, are incredibly powerful and perform a number of functions critical to our health and wellbeing. Apart from digesting and extracting nutrients from the food we eat; these microbes are thought to play a key role in metabolism, nutrient absorption, sleep and regulating the immune system.”
Gut Health for Fitness
When it comes to improving your performance in the gym or on the track, diet plays a significant role. We know that eating well and sticking to a regimented intake of macronutrients is a highly effective method for increasing overall fitness, but incorporating gut health into your diet plan is essential for long-term success.
“The relationship between gut health and fitness is a two-way street. The main function of the gut is to digest food and absorb nutrients,” Alleaume says. “So, it’s worth paying attention to the things that can affect your nutrient absorption, including what you’re eating to help maintain a healthy gut. When your gut microbiome is in balance, it helps boost energy levels, which can translate into better performance by regulating metabolism, reducing fatigue and enhancing recovery.”
Further to that, considering gut health when crafting a diet plan can help you to better address ongoing issues. By adding certain foods into your diet and restricting others, you can set about creating a structured routine that will significantly bolster your overall fitness.
“Significant changes to your exercise routine or fitness level can alter your gut microbiome which then influence the way that your body responds to exercise, including your inflammatory response and tissue repair,” Alleaume says.
Another key benefit of positive gut health is increased nutrient absorption. Your gut bacteria are pivotal in your body’s quest to stay healthy and free from damaging illnesses. “Optimal absorption of nutrients relies on a healthy gut,” Alleaume reveals. “The ‘beneficial’ bacteria (probiotics) that live within gut help to maintain our overall health by carrying signals to our brain and working muscles. For example, beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics) help to break down dietary fibre like those found in carbohydrates. Many gut bacteria break down non-digestible carbohydrates into short chain fatty acids which can be used by the body as a nutrient source but also play an important role in muscle function.”
This is a major reason why gut bacteria and gut health is important to gym performance. If your body is absorbing nutrients with ease and counteracting negative influences simultaneously, you’re better prepared for some next-level gym gains.
“It’s important to maintain as many of these ‘beneficial’ bugs as we can and feed these bugs the right fuel so they can survive and thrive,” Alleaume says. “To keep your gut bugs happy, make sure that you are eating a fibre-rich diet full of fruit, veggies, legumes and wholegrains right from the start of your day.”
Another key benefit of proper gut health is the positive relationship it has on blood sugar levels. “The good bugs in your gut help to break down carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids,” Alleaume says. “These fatty acids help to nourish the cells that line the gut, regulate hunger and also have a role in energy metabolism, such as the regulation of insulin response. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas. When we eat, insulin is released into the blood stream where it helps to transform sugars from the food we have eaten into cells to be used as energy that fuels our muscles.”
How to Improve Gut Health
If you are keen on learning how to improve gut health, the steps you need to take are simple. Alleaume suggests focusing on foods that support gut health. “This is the best way to support an overall healthy lifestyle, including your fitness and exercise. This means:
- Eating a wide range of fibre-rich foods. Fill your plate with seasonal fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g. beans and lentils), nuts and wholegrains.
- Choosing wholegrains over refined grains, as they’re fibre- rich and contain quality carbs for exercise fuel to support exercise efforts, reduce fatigue and post workout recovery. If you’re a morning gym-goer, opt for a hearty bowl of porridge. Or, for a twist on a savoury brekkie full of wholegrains and protein, why not try combining your oats into an omelette. My current favourite go-to is the new UNCLE TOBYS Super Blends Prebiotic Fibre with a hint of turmeric and coconut which have the benefit of dietary fibre plus added prebiotic fibre to nourish the good bacteria in your gut (as part of a healthy varied diet), scrambled with spinach and kimchi and two eggs.
- Enjoying probiotic-rich foods, such as ‘live’ natural yoghurt. These add the ‘beneficial’ gut bugs back into your digestive system. You can also experiment with fermented vegetables, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, as well as miso, and kombucha.
Gut Health in the Gym
It turns out busting your ass at the gym and eating healthy is only a small part of your overall health quest. Ensuring that your gut bacteria are working efficiently is critical to your ongoing success and strength. Whether you are training to be a marathon runner or a jacked-up bodybuilder, optimum performance starts in the gut. After all, you are what you eat.
Still have questions? We’ve got you covered.
How can I improve my gut health?
You can improve your gut health by reducing the amount of sugar you eat, staying hydrated and eating fermented foods. The good bacteria in these foods will help your body to regulate gut health.
What foods heal your gut?
Sauerkraut, pineapple, asparagus, onion and garlic are all great foods that help gut health.
How can I clean my gut naturally?
To clean you gut naturally, try to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. People who support a water flush for colon cleansing recommend drinking six to eight glasses of lukewarm water per day. You could also try eating foods high in water content.