Can Borrowing Athletes’ Gut Bacteria Make You More Athletic?

Researchers have identified a strain of bacteria that enhances the performance of endurance athletes.[1]

The scientists collected and analyzed stool samples from Boston Marathon runners the week leading up to the race and the week following the event. After the race, researchers measured a substantial increase in a particular bacteria genus called Veillonella.

Veillonella breaks down lactic acid, which is a compound that your muscles produce during exercise. The most noticeable indication that you have lactic acid buildup is that your muscles feel sore and tired. The bacteria converts lactic acid into propionate, a short-chain fatty acid that increases exercise capacity.

Imagine having a bug that gobbles up your muscle soreness as it builds, then turns it into energy — that’s essentially what Veillonella does in athletes’ bodies. It’s self-perpetuating. The more you exercise, the more lactic acid your muscles produce for Veillonella to feed on. If you set out the buffet for them, they’ll reproduce, and more bacteria will be available to break down your lactic acid faster.

The researchers took it a step further and wanted to know whether they could increase the endurance of mice by giving them a poop transplant. As expected, it increased the rodents’ treadmill run time.

Poop transplant? Before you gag… Doctors have already been using fecal transplants in humans as an effective treatment for a dangerous overgrowth of bacteria called clostridium difficile[2][3] and it is being investigated for other conditions. This particular research group intends to use this information to develop probiotic supplements targeted to athletes.

Your gut bacteria affect everything you do

Each person’s gut microbiome, the colonies of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that help you break down food and fight off disease, is more unique than your fingerprint and it changes every day — every meal, for that matter.

Your gut bacteria have a lot of say in how you show up in the world. You’re the boss of your gut, though. Here’s how to get your gut in balance so they can work for you, not against you.

What to do for a stronger gut

One of the best ways to influence your gut microbiome is to decide what you want to be, then become that:

  • To increase your exercise capacity, exercising will feed the good guys. You’ll get the most bang for your buck with high-intensity interval training over endurance training.
  • To be a person who craves healthy food, feed your gut bacteria healthy food and starve the strains that like sugar and junk. After a few days, your healthy-food-loving bacteria will turn on your cravings for healthy food.
  • If you want to be a low-stress person, start stress-management techniques like meditation shuts down the kitchen for the chemicals that feed stress-loving bacteria. Yes, your gut bacteria influence your mood, too.

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Dave Asprey

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