More than just a nutritional buzzword, gut health is hugely important to your overall well-being — including your athletic performance and recovery. It also impacts your resilience against various illnesses. “Increased microbial diversity has many health benefits including better immunity and higher resistance to illness and infections,” explains Rachel Butcher, Head of Nutrition at Natural Fitness Food. “It also lower rates of obesity as well and has a positive impact on digestion, mood, weight, and disease risk.”
As Butcher explains, a 2020 review suggested that gut microbiota could influence performance and having a more diverse microbiota may be more beneficial when it comes to improving athletic performance. “The mechanisms as to why or how this seems to be the case are not yet fully understood but it is likely there are several indirect effects that result in a performance-enhancing effect,” says Butcher. “The review concluded that the gut microbiota plays a key role in controlling oxidative stress and inflammatory responses as well as improving metabolism and energy expenditure meaning you’re able to train more effectively, with improved recovery.”
Which foods, however, should you be stocking up with? Below, Butcher has assembled your next shopping list. If you can, try to avoid highly-processed foods in the process. “These contain ingredients that either suppress ‘good’ microbes or increased ‘bad’ microbes,” says Butcher.
“Try to get as many different varieties of fruit, veg, whole grains, nuts, seeds and pulses in your diet as possible,” says Butcher. “Aim for 30 a week – variety is key because each contains different nutrients that the microbes thrive on.”
Berries and Nuts
“Berries and nuts contain polyphenols that encourage the growth of ‘good’ microbes as well as having antioxidant properties,” says Butcher.
“Live organisms found in yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso and kombucha are great,” says Butcher. “These exert their effect as they go through the gut.”
“These are a specific type of fibre, often called non-digestible carbohydrates. Our gut bacteria like to ferment them which can change the composition of your gut microbes by stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria,” says Butcher. “Great sources include onions, garlic, leeks, banana, asparagus, artichokes, olives, apples and plums as well as wholegrains like oats, bran and nuts such as almonds.”
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition – our requirements are as
unique as we are. If you’d like to begin implementing a personalised approach to
your nutrition, take a look at our 6-week nutrition programme guided by Rachel: