In an interesting article, “Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes” recently published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition – Alison Clarke, talks about a suspected relationship that I have wondered for some time – and that is, endurance exercise impact on gut health and its systemic implications.
Think about it, the typical endurance athlete consistently has his/her body subjected to exercise sessions lasting anywhere from two to eight hours (and racing up to 30-40 hours), at a time. During this time,
- blood supply is shunted away from the gut, and redirected towards the working muscles, creating a relative hypoxic (low oxygenation) state of the gastrointestinal cells,
- dramatic increase in inflammatory triggers (cytokines etc.) from intense physical exercise,
- diet of high simple-carb (gels, sugar bars/drinks) low fiber and little-no probiotic foods, resulting in imbalanced gut bacterial populations as well as mucous-membrane issues – giving rise to very common bloating, pain, cramping, nausea during training and racing.
When you take all this into account, you start to see the link between endurance exercise and gut health. But this is only the start of the problem. In her study conclusions, the author calls out this exacerbated inflammation of the gut in athletes, resulting in altered ratios of gut bacterial populations – giving rise to alterations in hormones and inflammatory triggers – that are likely to be directly related to the athletes’ mental state (anxieties, depression) and as a result, under-performance.
So as endurance athletes, obviously we can’t escape the extended periods of exercise training – but it does prompt us to relook at our training (and general) foods, and what choices we could make to reduce the negative impact on our gut-health.
At SFuels we get asked about our resistant starches/fibres we formulated into SFuels LIFE Bars – as this is very unique for an Endurance training food product.
From our companies perspective, Going Longer isn’t just about the one training session. Going Longer, is about being able to put in day after day, week after week, year after year of endurance training. So when we built our product we thought about your Endurance now, your racing this year, and the longevity of your health and Endurance lifestyle.
So here is why we have resistant starches formulated into SFuels…
Aside from enabling a ultra low carb, high fat food, we wished to enable two other characteristics of SFuels LIFE bars.
Firstly, these starches require the food to be lightly chewed, and thereby ensuring mouth enzymes and saliva begin the digestive process…this is a critical step in digestion. It’s a step that we see many sports-food simple sugar/carb companies attempting to ‘by design’ skip. Skipping this first step in digestion, only leads to bigger problems (see ultra Gut article) with the food, later down the digestive pipe/process. Digestive gut problems in endurance racing, is such a common occurrence – the data speaks for itself.
Secondly, the resistant starches are source fuel/food for the gut microbiome. They feed the bacteria, and the bacteria then produce short chain fatty acids, butyrate, hormones and other chemicals. Alison’s article above provides a lot more detail on what these substances provide the body.
We believe at SFuels, that published research like Alison Clarke’s and many other similar papers prior – are just the beginning of a nutritional renaissance whereby the gut increasingly becomes the foundation of holistic health and wellbeing. As the training of Endurance athletes places extreme stress on this critical part of our bodies health, it’s only good reason that we need to feed and care for it even more – if we are to Go Longer, in our day to day training, our racing and ultra-endurance lifestyle.
That’s our position.
All the best in health, training and racing. Go Longer.