Gut bacteria makeup determines athletic performance

June 7, 2022
Gut bacteria makeup determines athletic performance

Research from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) suggests that the gut microbiome has a direct influence on athletic performance – or, more specifically, voluntary exercise behaviour which involves both motivation and athletic ability. The team responsible for a mouse study on the subject have also raised the prospect of therapeutics that could increase one’s motivation for and promote exercise.

In mice engineered to be high-level runners, administration of antibiotics designed to kill off essential species of normal gut bacteria was noticed to cause considerable damage: wheel-running capacity of the mice was reduced by 21%, and the mice didn’t recover their high-level running abilities even 12 days after the treatment had stopped. Knocking out the bacteria was comparable to sustaining an injury – a major setback for world-class athletes.

However, the behaviour of normal mice used as a control was not much affected after antibiotic treatment. As neither group showed any signs of sickness, the team was able to pin the effects on the microbiome damage, which was confirmed through faecal samples after 10 days of antibiotics.

“We believed an animal’s collection of gut bacteria, its microbiome, would affect digestive processes and muscle function, as well as motivation for various behaviours, including exercise,” Theodore Garland, UCR evolutionary physiologist. The bacteria are believed to play a role in transforming carbohydrates into chemicals that regulate muscle performance.

“If we can pinpoint the right microbes, there exists the possibility of using them as a therapeutic to help average people exercise more,” Garland added.

Certain foods may also increase desirable gut bacteria as opposed to the western diet which is high in fat and sugar. It can impact gut biodiversity and, by extension, on athletic ability and motivation to exercise.

Research into probiotics to enhance athletic performance is developing, Garland meanwhile recommends that those interested in promoting overall health maintain a balanced diet in addition to regular exercise.

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Gut bacteria makeup determines athletic performance


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