Probiotics and Sports Performance

If you’re training hard, but don’t feel like you’re improving your athletic performance, then enriching your gut health could be the missing link.

In this article, I explain what probiotics are, how they’re classified, and how probiotics can impact your athletic performance and general wellbeing.

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, mainly bacteria, and yeasts, that naturally reside in your gut (microbiome) and convey a health benefit. Your microbiome typically contains over 1000 different organisms, both beneficial and pathogenic.

Because a healthy gut microbiome strengthens your immune system and enhances your recovery from fatigue and overtraining, taking care of your gastrointestinal system is vital. This will enhance your general health and help to improve your athletic performance.

We consume probiotics via gut friendly fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha sauerkraut and through supplements.

Probiotics are different to prebiotics. Prebiotics are carbohydrates and fibres such as inulin and other fructo-oligosaccharides found in foods like artichoke, bananas, and asparagus. The microorganisms in your gastrointestinal tract use prebiotics as fuel.

A diet rich in pre and probiotic foods support your gut to develop a robust immunity.

Understanding probiotics for athletes

As the popularity of ‘gut health’ supplements for athletes increases, a basic knowledge of the assortment of beneficial probiotics in your supplement is helpful.

Probiotics are classified by their unique microorganism strain, which includes the genus, species, subspecies (if applicable), and an alphanumeric strain designation.

The seven core probiotic genera are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, BacillusEnterococcus, and Escherichia.

Lactobaccillus rhamnosusLactobaccillus acidophilus, and Saccharomyces boulardii are common commercially produced probiotic and yeast species.

Scientific research on specific probiotic strains has expanded our knowledge of the health benefits and targeted treatments of probiotics for athletes. However, probiotic supplementation may not be appropriate or necessary for all athletes.

What are the best probiotics for athletes?

Certain probiotic species impart significant anti-inflammatory effects within your gut. In particular, Lactobacillus strains produce lactate, which is then converted into short-chain fatty acids by your gut bacteria. Butyrate is a pivotal short-chain fatty acid for intestinal homeostasis due to its anti-inflammatory properties and beneficial effects on intestinal cells, gut barrier function, and permeability.

Over thirty years of research supports the widespread use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) for common gut-related issues such as diarrhoea, antibiotic use, infections, e.g., Clostridium, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, respiratory tract infections, and allergies in athletes.

Studies also show certain probiotics can improve vitamin D levels in athletes.

LGG along with L. acidophilus, and B. bifidum has been shown to improve exercise-induced gastrointestinal symptoms. In fact, almost 60 percent of runners and endurance athletes who train intensely experience gut microbiome upsets and unwanted symptoms. Probiotics offer relief by supporting immune function and intestinal cell proliferation and function, as well as shortening the duration of gastrointestinal symptoms.

Probiotic strains interact favourably with other probiotic species in the microbiome to improve the overall balance and composition of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

New research demonstrates that probiotics can enhance sports performance. Runners taking Bifidobacterium longum (OLP-01) for five weeks significantly increased their running distance in a timed test. Bifidobacterium longum (OLP-01) also provided other health benefits such as increasing the abundance of gut microbiota in the runners.

Choosing probiotics for athletes

There are a few final points to keep in mind before you add probiotics to your diet.

First, the quality of your probiotic supplement may vary significantly. Be careful about your choices as the label “probiotic” doesn’t necessarily mean this option will be suitable for your microbiome.

Second, a probiotic combination or an inappropriate supplementation duration may exacerbate unwanted symptoms in some situations. Therefore, it’s vital to consume high-quality, well-characterised live probiotics that deliver a therapeutic dose over an effective length of time.

Finally, the best probiotics for endurance athletes are selected case by case to improve your performance, recovery, immune and gut health. Be sure to seek professional advice for the most suitable probiotic therapy for your training and health circumstances.

Unsure if a probiotic supplement could help you?
Speak with Clinical Nutritionist Christine Bardajian about your health and performance goals today.

christine@eatinginmind.com.au or contact us using the link below

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Effects of probiotic yogurt on performance, respiratory and digestive systems of young adult female endurance swimmers: a randomized controlled trial (nih.gov)

Acute high-intensity interval running increases markers of gastrointestinal damage and permeability but not gastrointestinal symptoms – PubMed (nih.gov)

Do I Need Zinc?

Building a robust immunity is all part of a holistic approach to coaching and training. So how do you minimise your risk of getting sick? 

There are many nutrients that contribute to a healthy immune system.

Today’s focus is on ZINC. Athletes may be more susceptible to being deficient in zinc because exercise, particularly strenuous and endurance exercise, increases zinc requirements, encourages zinc loss through sweating, and changes zinc transportation and metabolism.

In nutrition, zinc plays the most critical role in supporting athletes and immunity.

ZINC SUPPORTS IMMUNITY AND SO MUCH MORE

Zinc regulates several crucial processes in both your innate and adaptive immune system.  Being deficient in zinc can lead to athletes becoming more susceptible to respiratory illness, particularly in the colder months. 

Apart from zinc’s well-established role in immunity, this mineral, contributes to protein structure, regulates gene expression, metabolism and is the second most abundant trace element in the body after iron.  Zinc deficiency can impact an athlete through hormone dysregulation (testosterone, thyroid, and growth hormones to name a few) and may affect erectile function and fertility.

Zinc is essential to maintaining optimum performance due to its function in metabolism and healthy cell division – essential in repairing damaged tissues after you exercise.

Studies show being deficient in zinc can lead to a reduction in the number of fast-twitch muscle fibres and muscle mass and performance decline.  For Masters Athletes this is of particular relevance as aging is also associated with sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance.

Zinc also helps maintain blood sugar control and assists with muscle contraction during exercise, glucose metabolism, and glycogen storage.

Zinc also plays an essential role in antioxidant production by increasing antioxidant activity and inhibiting free radical production that may damage tissues, impact liver function, and prevent muscle exhaustion.

WHERE TO FIND ZINC 

The most concentrated sources of zinc are contained in animal products, particularly meat, seafood and dairy.   Vegan and plant-based athletes may be more susceptible to zinc deficiency due to reduced dietary intake, lowered gastric acid (which is zinc dependant) and higher phytate consumption.  Phytates found in plant-based zinc rich foods such as legumes can inhibit zinc absorption. 

Soaking nuts and seeds and legumes prior to cooking is a great way to minimise this issue and allow for greater micronutrient absorption.

SUPER CHARGE ABSORPTION

The gastrointestinal tract plays an important role in maintaining total body zinc homeostasis by regulating zinc absorption and excretion. In order to boost your absorption, the addition of a probiotic may be beneficial. Choosing the best probiotic can be confusing.

In certain situations, zinc supplementation may be recommended. The amount ingested, supplement form, and the timing of zinc matters. This is where a qulaified Nutritionist with an interest in sport is beneficial rather than self-prescribing. You’ll definitely want to avoid zinc toxicity. High zinc levels can have a detrimental impact on your performance through anaemia, copper and iron deficiency and unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.

TESTING FOR ZINC

60% of zinc is stored in muscle and 30% in bone therefore serum may not be the best measure of zinc homeostasis.  A mineral test can be another alternative method of assessing zinc levels and is available through my clinic.

If you need help building a robust immune system, book an appointment today https://eatinginmind.com.au/contact/

Gastro-Intestinal Dysbiosis

Gastrointestinal dysbiosis is now being linked to a myriad of pathological conditions including Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Anxiety, Autism, Atopic Eczema, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Metabolic Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Cardiovascular Disease, Coeliac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease.

Your body is full of colonies of harmless bacteria known as microbiota. Most of these bacteria have a positive effect on your health and contribute to your body’s natural processes.

But when one of these bacterial colonies is out of balance, it can lead to dysbiosis. Dysbiosis typically occurs when the bacteria in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract — which includes your stomach and intestines — become unbalanced.

Some effects of dysbiosis, such as stomach upset, are temporary and mild. In many cases, your body can correct the imbalance without treatment.

A number of factors have been found to negatively impact on the health and balance of the GIT ecosystem.
These include pharmaceuticals: antibiotics, chemotherapy, NSAIDs, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and radiotherapy.

High sugar/high processed food diets, high protein/low carbs diets and the keto diet all contribute to dysbiosis.

Common symptoms include:

  • bad breath
  • upset stomach
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty urinating
  • vaginal or rectal itching
  • bloating
  • chest pain
  • rash or redness
  • fatigue
  • having trouble thinking or concentrating
  • anxiety
  • depression

A Comprehensive Stool Analysis is a useful test I use in clinic to determine what bacteria, yeast or funghi are present.

A number of tools can be utilised to improve the balance of the GIT microbiota and to enhance the
growth of specific members of the ecosystem. We always start slow with repopulating the beneficial bacteria.

How to Stop Cramping

Finding the root cause

Dehydration may contribute to cramping in athletes along with imbalances in electrolytes. Over the cooler months, we naturally reach for comfort warming foods and reduce our consumption of salads packed with magnesium rich leafy vegetables. Also, our natural thirst cues to drink fluids may also be reduced and our thirst mechanism sluggish over winter.

Coffee, alcohol and some drugs (such as oral contraceptives) may also accelerate the excretion or reduce the absorption of water and electrolytes such as magnesium and calcium.

Another factor is stress. It is pretty rare to find a person who can honestly say they are stress free, especially in the current environment. The body uses up Vitamin C, sodium and magnesium during periods of stress.

Get good at the basics

Increasing magnesium rich foods such as spinach, broccoli, squash, legumes, nuts, wholegrains and cocoa (quality chocolate can in fact be beneficial!) may  help reduce cramping in athletes.

Most athletes underestimate their daily fluid needs when taking into account fluid losses from training. Endurance athletes are notorious for skipping hydration opportunities during a session (especially long-distance runners) despite large sweat losses. Many athletes are shocked how many  litres of fluid they lose in a single session and ignore the increased risk of  nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and other gastro-intestinal problems due to dehydration. However, excessive fluid intake also causes issues such as hyponatraemia (low sodium concentration in the blood). Therefore, knowing your individual sweat rate is the best way to determine how much you should be drinking during and post exercise.

Total Fluid intake

During recovery, you will continue to lose fluids through sweating and urination. Plan to replace 125-150% of this fluid deficit over the next 2-6 hours.  Sip small amount of fluids constantly over a few hours rather than sculling large amounts at once.

Make sure your daily total fluid intake includes both your exercise associated requirements and physiological needs. Although we are led to believe 8 glasses is sufficient as a basic requirement, it is now being suggested that 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) of fluids a day for women is more appropriate for adults living in temperate climates. Typically 20-30% of your hydration needs are obtained through water containing foods and the remainder through liquids.

Athletes with a limited intake of dietary sodium (strictly wholefoods diet) may benefit from adding a small pinch of sea salt to evening meals or drink bottles (except athletes with elevated blood pressure).

If you are unsure about supplementation, it is best to speak with a health professional.

Seed Loaf

Why would you bake a seed loaf when there are so many great options at the store you ask? Once you have baked this loaf, you will NEVER feel the same about your store bought gluten free loaf…. some of them come close but there is NOTHING like a home baked loaf.

Versatile to toast and lather with butter and honey, or to top with your favourite savoury filling.

Magic ingredient – Psyllium Seed Husks
The psyllium binds all these lovely ingredients together without resorting to flour. Psyllium is available at health food stores and most supermarkets.

Bottom line, you need the psyllium in this loaf – there is no substitute.

Seed Loaf
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:
1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds
½ cup / 65g almonds
1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
3 Tbsp. psyllium husk powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
1 ½ cups / 350ml water

Directions:
1. In a bowl combine all dry ingredients. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick. Pour into a prepared loaf tin. Let sit for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 160°C.
3. Place loaf tin in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing.
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days.

Enjoy

Digestion Basics

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “you are what you eat”. It’s a great way to motivate us to eat healthier. However, a more concise way of looking at this proves that you are not what you eat, you are what you digest, absorb and are able to utilize.

So no matter how perfect your diet is, if your digestion isn’t working properly, not only won’t you be able to absorb all the nutrients you think you’re feeding yourself but you’ll be setting yourself up for a host of digestive problems such as heartburn, dysbiosis (the proliferation of abnormal gut flora), IBS, etc. Gas, burping and bloating are not normal!

When Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut” he was really on the spot. Today, digestive disorders affect millions of Australians. That’s why digestion is foundational to Nutritional Therapy and is the first thing I address with pretty much every client I work with.

I’d like to leave you with a few facts about digestion and several simple tips to help you improve yours.

Did you know that digestion actually starts with your brain? It starts when you start to think about what you’re about to eat. Digestion is also parasympathetic process. This means you must be in a state of calm and relaxation for digestion to work. If you’re on the run, stressed out, in an argument, you are in sympathetic mode. If you eat in this state, you’re behind the eight ball. All the complex parts of digestion just won’t work. It puts you in a state of fight or flight. When you’re in this state, your body thinks it’s in danger (from our hunter gatherer days) and digestion takes a back seat to other bodily processes designed to get us out of dodge.

So do yourself a favour and chew well (when your food is physically broken down properly, it takes some of the pressure off of other parts of your digestive system so it doesn’t have to work so hard) and let your salivary juices start to flow. These juices in your mouth contain enzymes that start to digest carbohydrates. They also set into motion a chain of events in the rest of your digestive system to prepare for the food that is coming down the pike (they signal for the release of enzymes and hormones necessary to break down and absorb your food) . Here are few more simple tips for you try to help improve your digestion.

• Eat your meals sitting down. Take a few deep breaths to relax and calm your body and mind before you take your first bite. This helps you get into a parasympathetic state prior to eating.

• Try starting your meal with ½ tsp raw apple cider vinegar in ¼ to ½ cup warm water as another digestive tonic.

• Chew your food! It should actually liquify in your mouth before you swallow. A good rule of thumb is to chew your food 20-30 times as a goal.

• Include fermented foods with your meals. This could be a small glass kombucha or water kefir, 1-2 tablespoons of fermented vegetables or sauerkraut to boost your ability to digest your meal. Fermenting foods makes their nutrients more bioavailable (your body doesn’t have to work so hard to make the nutrients available as the fermentation process has done some of the digestion for you). Start slow and build up your tolerance. You can also start with a teaspoon of the brine or “juice” from the kraut if you can’t yet tolerate the vegetables at first.

• Digestive bitters can also help boost HCL (hydrochloric acid in your stomach that helps you digest proteins) levels. They also stimulate the digestive system to produce digestive enzymes and secrete bile which helps you digest your fats.

 Need some help with digestion and nutrition? Get in touch for a consultation.

Is Stress affecting your Health? Adrenal Dysfunction and what you need to know.

High levels of stress can affect and impair quality of life and health. We are all busy and disconnected, and it making time for rest and relaxation can be difficult. But it’s one of the best things that you can do because high levels of perceived stress that go unaddressed are one of the primary causes of adrenal dysfunction or HPA Axis Dysfunction.

Many people that I work with are high functioning individuals who have high expectations of themselves and long daily to-do lists. They are disciplined and strict with their daily regimes.

How does this affect the Adrenals? Let’s take a look.

What Are your Adrenal Glands & The HPA Axis

The adrenal glands are two small organs that are located above the kidneys. The adrenals are involved in hormonal balance, gastrointestinal function, brain health, blood sugar balance, the immune system, bone metabolism and more. They help regulate your response to stress and are able to protect you by activating the fight-or-flight response. It does this by increasing your blood sugar levels, elevating your heartbeat, and increasing your blood pressure by holding onto salt.

One of the primary ways that the adrenals do this is through their production of two hormones: DHEA and cortisol. DHEA is a hormone and a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. It’s also very important for development, thyroid health and the immune system. Cortisol is involved in regulating blood sugar and is the body’s stress hormone, as increased stress typically leads to more cortisol production. The adrenals also produce adrenaline (epinephrine) and other hormones. This process is ideal when you experience short periods of stress or adrenal stimulation, as it helps to keep you alive.

Stress & HPA Axis Dysfunction

Most people are exposed to acute stress topped with lots of chronic stress. The body doesn’t know the difference so it responds in the same way, leading to a higher secretion of cortisol. The HPA axis is a complex interaction that occurs between the adrenal glands and the hypothalamus and pituitary and controls the innate way that you react to stressors. This is the entire system that communicates and secretes cortisol and other hormones. In the context of chronic stress, the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin releasing hormone which signals the production of Adrencorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH travels through the body and acts on the adrenal glands to stimulate the release of cortisol. Other hormones and organs contribute to the stress response as well, activating the sympathetic nervous system and the body’s fight-or-flight response.

When you are constantly stressed, running from task to task all day long, and never saving time for a break, your cortisol levels can become a rollercoaster. Different people will develop different cortisol patterns. Cortisol levels could be higher at certain parts of the day that it’s not supposed to be or constantly elevated or even in some cases completely exhausted. Some people refer to this as a stage of ‘adrenal fatigue’. The problem with the term adrenal fatigue is that it’s not a medically accepted term, condition or diagnosis. A more accurate way of describing the situation would be HPA axis dysfunction.

Common symptoms include difficulty falling or staying asleep, fatigue, brain fog/memory issues, anxiousness, irritability, weakened immune system, difficulty handling stress, headaches, muscle weakness, dizziness, weight gain and digestive issues. And while there are plenty of supplements and adaptogens that are useful for helping with your stress response, they are worthless if you don’t identify the root cause of your stress.

Stress can also alter the composition, function and metabolic activity of the gut microbiome which may lead to the progression of disease.

Stress is the body’s way of reacting to a threat or challenge. Stress is also tricky to pinpoint for various reasons: 1) there are many different forms such as environmental, mental, emotional, & physiological 2) people normalize being stressed to the point that they don’t realize they are in fact stressed and 3) it’s not easy to measure. 

Stay tuned for my Top 10 Tips for Adrenal Dysfunction.

Are Fortified foods and Vitamin supplements enough in a world of fake food?

We live in an era of convenience foods which are highly processed.

Nature has provided us with all the food we need to stay healthy, active and full of energy. However when we start tampering with natural foods we lose the chemical and biological structure of these foods.

The more food is processed, the more nutrient depleted and chemically altered it becomes.

Apart from losing its nutritional value, processed foods also lose their taste, flavour and colour. So, to compensate for that, manufacturers add additives, preservatives, colours, flavour enhancers other chemicals.

Many of these chemicals have been shown to contribute to poor health.

Natural foods get changed into various chemical concoctions which are then packaged and presented to us as food.

I want to talk about the most basic ingredient – Flour.

Continue reading “Are Fortified foods and Vitamin supplements enough in a world of fake food?”

What is Intuitive Eating?

What is INTUITIVE EATING?

Any weight loss plan can achieve short term benefits, but over time the weight creeps back, and it’s not unusual to end up weighing more than you did before you started dieting. 

Research shows us that intuitive eating can help you get off the diet roller coaster for good. 

One of the principles of intuitive eating is to make peace with food and to abandon the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food. 

If you’re interested in working with me check out my ‘Beautiful You’ program link in bio. We all deserve health and to be able to enjoy life a little more without stressing about diets and food. 

I even have a new shirt that says ‘You are Beautiful’ because you ARE!

https://eatinginmind.com.au/beautiful-you-5-week-program/

What is coaching anyway?

Let’s play a game. Can you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions?

There’s a gap between where I am now and where I want to be

I can make and keep appointments to work on my goal(s)

I’m committed to do the work required and take action to get to where I want to be

I’m willing to change any self-defeating behaviours and beliefs that limit my success

I am willing to try new things, even if I’m not yet 100% convinced they will work

More than three yes’s? Then coaching is what you need.

So what is coaching anyway?

Essentially, coaching is a future-focused conversation with a trained professional. A conversation that’s 100% about you and helping you think differently about things you’ve previously felt stuck or unclear about. It’s action-oriented. Coaching gets you results.

Why do I need a coach?

Continue reading “What is coaching anyway?”