A stable gut helps top athletes perform better

A stable gut helps top athletes perform better

Summary: Short-term high-protein diets have been linked to gut microbial instability, which appears to impair performance in elite athletes.

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

New research has found that microbial instability in the gut could impair the performance of elite endurance athletes and that short-term, high-protein diets are associated with this type of imbalance.

Researchers from across the UK analyzed the performance and gut health of a group of well-matched, highly trained endurance runners to examine the effects of both high-protein and high-carb diets.

The study found that this led to disruption in the stability of the gut microbiome in those following a high-protein regimen. This was accompanied by a reduction in performance in the time trial by 23.3%.

The analysis revealed a significantly reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut phageome, as well as higher concentrations of certain types of viral and bacterial compartments. The participants whose gut microbiome was more stable performed better in the time trial.

An imbalance in the gut affects different people differently, but it can manifest itself in acute symptoms such as cramps or nausea. Because there is an interaction between the gut and the brain, the authors suggest that this may be important.

Those following a high-carb diet resulted in a 6.5% improvement in time trial performance.

dr Justin Roberts, associate professor of health and exercise nutrition at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and co-author of the study, said: “These results suggest that athletic performance may be associated with gut microbial stability, with athletes Those with more stable microbial communities consistently performed best in each dietary intervention compared to those with more turbulent gut microbiota.

A stable gut helps top athletes perform better
Those following a high-carb diet resulted in a 6.5% improvement in time trial performance. The image is in the public domain

“Although we cannot be sure that the high level of protein in the body was entirely responsible for the significant drop in performance in the time trial, it was found that changes in the gut microbiome certainly appeared after a short-term high-protein diet that appeared to be associated with performance.

“These results suggest that consumption of a high-protein diet may adversely affect the gut via an altered microbial pattern, while high-carbohydrate intake, such as that found in a variety of grains and vegetables, was associated with greater gut microbial stability.

“The diet was well controlled and carefully balanced and therefore we think it is unlikely that the protein itself caused a drop in performance. Instead, we think it’s possible that the changes in the gut microbiome could affect gut permeability or nutrient uptake or gut-brain messaging, and could affect perceived effort and therefore performance.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology mSystems and was conducted by researchers from Northumbria University, Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), University of Reading, Newcastle University, University of Kent, University of Hertfordshire and Northwest University in South Africa.

About this microbiome and news from nutritional research

Author: Jamie Forsyth
Source: Anglia Ruskin University
Contact: Jamie Forsyth—Anglia Ruskin University
Picture: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Open access.
“Stability of gut microbes is associated with greater endurance performance in athletes undergoing dietary periodization” by Justin Roberts et al. mSystems


See also

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Gut microbial stability is associated with better endurance performance in athletes undergoing dietary periodization

High-protein or high-carbohydrate dietary changes are commonly employed during elite athletic training to improve athletic performance. Such interventions are likely to affect the microbial contents of the gut.

This study investigated the effects of acute high-protein or high-carbohydrate diets on measured endurance performance and associated changes in the gut microbial community.

In a cohort of well-matched, highly trained endurance runners, we measured performance outcomes as well as gut bacterial, viral (FVP), and bacteriophage (IV) communities in a double-blind, randomized-controlled, repeated-measures design (RCT) study to assess the effects of high-protein dietary intervention – or high carbohydrate content.

High carbohydrate diet improved time trial performance by +6.5% (P < 0.03) and was associated with an expansion of Ruminococcus and Collinsella bacterial spp.

Conversely, a high dietary protein led to a reduction in performance by −23.3% (P = 0.001). This impact was accompanied by a significantly reduced diversity (IV: P= 0.04) and changed composition (IV and FVP: P= 0.02) of the intestinal phageoma and accumulation of both free and inducible Sk1 virusand Leuconostocbacterial populations.

The greatest performance during dietary changes was observed among participants with fewer major changes in community composition. Gut microbial stability during acute dietary periodization was associated with greater athletic performance in this highly exercised, well-matched cohort.

Athletes and those who support them should be aware of the potential impact of dietary changes on gut flora and the impact on performance, and use appropriate periodization.

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