While talk of “gut health” is definitely buzzing in the wellness world, it hasn't reached nearly enough audience amongst athletes yet. Often times, it’s easy to assume we are healthier than a majority of the population. As athletes, we have the whole fitness thing down to a T, right? But there are so many ways to improve your well-being that can translate to performance. And gut health is at the top of that list.
I can’t count the number of times I’d be enjoying a wholesome gossip sesh during warm-ups, and a teammate would say something that made me go, “YOU NEED PROBIOTICS. NOW.” The reaction was always the same: immediate confusion and a million questions.
But the topic is complex, and I’d usually lose everyone’s attention by the time I referenced the Gut Microbiome. I would typically cut my rant short by leaving everyone with one clear piece of advice: “Go read about it”.
I’m sure very few of them raced home to research probiotics. And while there are plenty of fascinating articles, most of you don’t want to lose sleep reading about digestive enzymes and microbiomes. Totally get it. Nonetheless, all athletes should understand how beneficial focusing on gut health can be to their performance. No pun intended, absolute game-changer. Sometimes we don’t even realize how “off” we feel, or how much better we CAN feel. That’s why I’m going to rattle off the good old benefits of a strong and healthy gut, and why they’re specifically relevant to athletes:
This can be an absolute nightmare.
Food should fuel you to power through those intense workouts and buzzer beater games, not weigh you down!
Those flu seasons can set you and your entire team back. No time for off days, and certainly no time for feeling off!
We’d all be lying if we said the life of an athlete doesn’t generate some overwhelming emotions, and for some it may be more extreme than others. The list of stress factors is endless, and it’s not uncommon for people to experience anxiety, depression, and even burnout. The mind-gut connection is a powerful thing. and improving your gut health can have a positive impact on your mental health as well.
Metabolism often seems like it’s out of our control, as if genetics determine how easy or difficult it is to maintain a healthy weight, or feel energized throughout the day. Guess what? Poor gut health can largely impact your metabolism. But this should be considered a positive thing! You can’t control genetics, but you can always take charge of your gut health.
Brain fog is no fun. College athletes, I know you feel this. You’ve either started the morning with classes and ended the afternoon with practice, or vice versa. And at some point you just check out, some days faster than others. Again, it’s that mind-gut connection keeping those killer instincts sharp.
Duh. So important. And yes, your gut has a say in your sleep cycle. Need I say more.
Add up these elements.. Think about how crucial of a role each one plays in your performance and overall well-being. Your next thought is probably, now what? How do I optimize my gut health?
Here are a few articles that will further explain the ins and outs of a happy gut, and how to find the right probiotics for you (because everyone’s different, believe it or not). So get after it, start feeling good & living better!!