7 Ways Your Gut Health Impacts Exercise, According To Science

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In recent years, there's been a lot of buzz about how your gut affects your mental and physical health. But you might not know that there are also ways your gut health affects your ability to exercise — whether or not it's difficult, how quickly you recovery from injuries, and more. Basically, there's something in your gut called microbiome, and it plays a big role in your overall health and wellness.

"The human body is made up of a collection of microbes or microorganisms — also known as our microbiome," Yasi Ansari, a performance and wellness dietitian in southern California, told Caitlin Miller for the fitness app Aaptiv. "Our bacteria make up the biology of our body and determine our overall health status, metabolism, and immune health while also carrying out a variety of functions required for survival."

If your gut microbiome is out of whack, it's sort of like trying to drive a car that has sugar in the gas tank. Things aren't going to work the way they're supposed to. When it comes to exercise, an unbalanced gut means you're more likely to sputter and stop. "The ability of the athlete to digest and absorb nutrients to produce energy, muscular gains, and neurological gains are all controlled by a healthy gut," Kiran Krishnan, microbiologist and scientific adviser for probiotics supplement brand Probiogen, told Miller. So, just how does good gut health affect exercise? Not only is it pretty interesting, it also makes a whole lot of sense.

1. Good Gut Health Gives You Energy

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If you've ever tried to work out when you feel depleted, then you know it's hella hard. It turns out that how healthy your gut is directly relates to how much energy you have for exercise (and for everything else). According to the blog Hyperbiotics, your body produces something called short-chain fatty acids, or SCFAs, when it digests fiber. "SCFAs make up about 10 [percent] of your caloric requirements in a day, and they're used in various other processes that create energy," the blog explained. If you're short on SCFAs, you're going to tire out faster during your workout. But fear not my friendlies, you can get more SCFAs from probiotic and prebiotic supplements.

2. Your Body Will Recover Faster

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A healthy body will recover faster from a strenuous workout and from injury than an unhealthy one. And, you guessed it, a healthy body starts with a healthy gut. "Effective exercise, both cardio and resistance, will cause an acute inflammatory response that shuttles reparative cells to the sites of muscle damage," Krishnan told Miller. "This process of recovery leads to improvements in muscle strength, muscle tone, muscle endurance, and appearance. The immune system controls your body’s inflammatory mechanism. Nearly 80 percent of the immune tissue is in the digestive tract."

3. You'll Have Greater Endurance

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Have you ever wondered where people get the endurance to run a marathon or finish a triathlon? It all starts in the gut. ACS Central Science reported on a study conducted at Harvard University that examined microbes living in the guts of marathon runners (via fecal samples) to see if they were different from microbes inside of less active people. "When I think about bacteria’s effects on energy metabolism, I think about an athlete’s endurance; protein metabolism, I think of strength," researcher Jonathan Scheiman said in the article. "If you are going to run 100 miles [160.9 km] at a time, you might need a microbial composition that is efficient at extracting energy from food."

4. You'll Develop Stronger Bones

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To get the most out of your exercise routine and prevent injury, you need to keep your bones healthy and strong. And strong and healthy bones begin in your gut. According to a study published in the journal Bone Research, healthy gut microbiome help maintain bone health. If your gut is out of balance, adding a probiotic, especially as you get older, can help. "Probiotics prevent bone resorption by restoring intestinal microbial diversity, enhancing the intestinal epithelial barrier, and normalizing aberrant host immune responses, as well as facilitating intestinal calcium absorption," the study explained. Strong bones can reduce the likelihood of injury and reduce recovery time if an injury does occur.

5. It Helps You Use Food As Fuel

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While it's definitely delicious, food is really just the fuel that keeps your body going. Think gas in a car. The healthier your gut microbiome, the better that fuel is going to work. In fact, having a healthy gut microbiome helps your body better absorb the nutrients it needs to fuel your workouts. "Accumulating evidence suggests that the gut microbiota plays an important role in the harvest, storage, and expenditure of energy obtained from the diet," a study published in the journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice noted. If your gut microbiome is poor, your body has to work harder to absorb nutrients which in turns makes it harder to exercise effectively.

6. It Makes You Mentally Strong

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There's been much written about the link between gut and mental health, but healthy gut microbiome can also contribute to metal toughness. The Harvard study explored the role healthy gut microbiome plays in the reduction of performance anxiety in athletes as well as the ability to adopt a mind-over-matter mindset, Psychology Today reported. "We are more bacteria than we are human. The bugs in our gut affect our energy metabolism, making it easier to break down carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. They are also involved in inflammation and neurological function. So perhaps the microbiome could be relevant for applications in endurance, recovery, and maybe even mental toughness," Scheiman said in a statement on Psychology Today. It seems that a healthy gut can help you believe things you might not when your gut is out of balance.

7. It helps You Stay Hydrated

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Staying hydrated is important in every aspect of life, but it's especially important when it comes to physical activity. According Aaptiv, gut microbiome directly affects your body's ability to hydrate. The healthier your gut, the easier time you'll have staying hydrated by absorbing water from your diet, and the better your workout will be. On the other hand, poor gut health is a direct path to dehydration, and exercising when you are dehydrated can make you feel sluggish, and in some cases can even cause you to pass out.

Overall, a healthy gut equals a healthy mind, body, and spirit. If you've been having difficulty exercising lately, it might be time to look within and take some steps to balance your gut bacteria by making some changes to your diet, sleep schedule, and by reducing your stress levels. #TheMoreYouKnow