Running has so many health benefits for the body, but long-distance running or even shorter high-intensity runs can be a major gut stressor. Ultra-runners often get stomach issues during long-distance races, whether it is from eating foods that the body is not happy with, consuming too much sugar, or how the running pounding creates so much impact on the stomach when running for hours and hours. During Ultras, the stomach tends to get sensitive and more inflamed, causing gas, nausea and even diarrhea. To make sure that our stomach is full of healthy bacteria can improve the gut health and reduce the stomach issues during long-distance runs. Having a healthy gut can even improve a runner’s energy and endurance levels. The type of foods you eat can improve your gut microbiome (microorganisms such as bacteria in your digestive system). Consuming probiotics regularly (the good bacteria) can help to strengthen the gut’s lining and lower inflammation throughout the body, which lowers the damage to your GI tract and fewer stomach problems during long runs or races. Those healthy bacteria (your gut has trillions of them) have also been linked to improvements of the immune system, lung function and calcium absorption, all important issues with runners. Studies have shown that athletes who consumed probiotics for four weeks were able to work out longer before fatiguing (37 minutes versus 33 minutes) than those who took placebo. Adding foods with probiotics will benefit your gut, overall health and performance. Probiotics are found in some natural foods, or supplements. To consume probiotics in natural foods make it easier for the body to absorb and process the healthy bacteria.
Real food with probiotics:
Fermented foods- Kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha tea, and even sourdough bread.
Fermented dairy products- Yoghurt, kefir, aged cheeses.
Some foods are also fortified with probiotics. Products that don’t require heating or freezing will contain two prominent probiotics; Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. These are the most beneficial probiotic strains for athletes. Natural foods with these strains are one of the best sources.
Taking probiotic supplements can be helpful if you’re not getting enough through foods. Most people can find it a bit difficult to have regular access to natural probiotic foods. To combine both can be beneficial for gut health. When looking for a supplement, pay attention to the dosage. The greatest benefits come from supplements with a minimum of one billion units (CFUs) per serving. People with gut and digestive system issues should take supplements with at least 30 billion CFUs units. Even no refrigeration probiotic supplements are very beneficial as they also contain active live cultures.
The best option is to start taking probiotics at least one month before a race, not last minute to see the best results, improvement in your GI issues, your training and even your recovery after a long run.
Looking after our gut health can support a better race performance or even avoid DNF issues.