It has become very clear that probiotics are an important part of one’s health journey but what about athletic performance? Through the past number of years, many scientific studies have sought to discover a potential link. However, to date, those studies have been inconclusive to actual performance. Don’t stop reading though! The studies did confirm key health benefits that all athletes from the elite athlete to the everyday athlete need to know!
What we know about probiotics:
- The gut must maintain a delicate balance between the good and bad bacteria. Probiotics can be very powerful in helping to maintain this balance.
- Poor food choices, emotional stress, physical exertion, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, environmental influences can shift this balance to favor the bad bacteria making us vulnerable to disease
- The good bacteria in the gut (probiotics) not only facilitate good digestion and nutrient absorption but also help form our immune system to fight the influences of the bad bacteria
- An imbalance in favor of the bad bacteria is also associated with urinary track infections, diarrhea, fatigue and muscle pain
- “Up to 10% of an individual’s daily energy needs can be derived from the byproducts of good bacteria in your gut” (Dr. Mehmet Oz)
What the studies have shown about probiotics and athletic performance:
- They may reduce the number of sick days athletes experience when training for endurance running events*
- The severity of respiratory infections and gastrointestinal disturbances may be reduced for athletes*
- They may assist with immune function of fatigued athletes*
- They may positively affect athletic performance through enhanced recovery from fatigue
Andrew Nichols, MD summarizes these findings in his “Probiotics and Athletic Performance: A Systematic Review” (2007) by saying:
“…probiotics may provide athletes with secondary health benefits that could positively affect athletic performance through enhanced recovery from fatigue, improved immune function, and maintenance of healthy gastrointestinal tract function:
An athletes at any level places stress on the body and the immune system during workouts, training routines and competitions. The paradox is how much exercise and how intense is the exercise. It has actually been shown that regular, moderate exercise can actually enhance the immune system. Studies has confirmed that recreational athletes had a lower incidence of colds when engaged in a regular running program. This type of exercise actually increases the production of macrophages – cells that actually attack the kind of bacteria that can lead to respiratory diseases. However, high-intensity exercise (90 minutes or more) weakens the immune system, making an individual more susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after working out. This is due to the increase of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which also increase blood pressure and elevate cholesterol levels.
With the emergence of the fitness movement that we are seeing in the US, the need to focus on gut health, including the focused integration of probiotics into the health regimen of athletes at all stages is becoming increasingly important. This movement is seeing the huge increase of everyday athletes training and competing in half marathons, full marathons, iron man competitions, “mudders” as well as other athletic endeavors! These trends are not limited to the younger generations as the “baby boomers” participants in these types of sports are exponentially growing! Thus the need for immune support through probiotic supplementation is more important than ever.
The link between gut health and our immune system has been studied for decades. Surprisingly to most people, 60-70% of our immune system is located in our gut. Another surprising fact is that 95% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut! The good bacteria in probiotics have been seen to have a large role in fighting harmful foreign substances that enter the body by detoxifying them and contributing to their elimination. Probiotics also prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that lead to infections and disease.
The USANA Probiotics combine two of the most widely studied strains of probiotics that have clinically tested benefits:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG®
- Bifidobacterium BB-12®
The USANA Probiotic, contain 12 billion colony-forming unit (CFU) per serving. According to current scientific research, this is the optimal number of CFUs needed for gut health.
These probiotics are are packaged in a very convenient stick packet. They are designed to be taken once every other day though many athletes who are engaged in more intense exercise choose to take one everyday. These stick packs have a shelf life of 18 months. USANA has also gone the extra mile by making these packets dairy free, gluten free and sugar free. They can be consumed alone (actually taste great), in a glass of water or mixed in a meal replacement or recovery shake (USANA’s Nutrimeal is highly recommended for both of these choices!). Convenience is the key for compliance due to our increasingly busy lives (which also creates stress). The yogurt in the back of the refrigerator usually goes bad because we forget it while off to our next engagement. These stick packs are great for the gym bag, backpack or purse (or even in your office desk drawer).
As with every product that USANA Health Sciences produces, the quality and purity is of utmost importance. This is why Performance Vitamins partners and highly recommends the products developed and manufactured by this cutting edge laboratory and manufacturing plant.
What are the “take aways” concerning probiotics and athletic performance:
- Due to the critical connection of gut health and the immune system, probiotics are important for everyone’s health journey
- Today’s athletes place even more stress on their gut health and immune system with higher levels of exercise. Probiotics can be very important to their overall health and thus benefit the consistency and longevity of their training. The likelihood of performance goals being met are much better If the athlete is not sick and can continue his/her training regimen!
Give USANA Probiotics a “test drive”!
Don’t say “someday”! Take control of your health today. Order a few months of USANA Probiotics today to experience the difference in your health!
* The Irish Sports Council – Technical Document on Probiotics (2014)