Looking to upgrade your diet this fall? Go with your gut! Gut health plays a primary role in overall digestive function, but did you know that your gut also influences athletic performance? Over half of all endurance athletes experience some form of GI distress during exercise, which is not only uncomfortable, but can also cost you your race.
How a healthy gut can keep you performing at your peak:
- Absorption: Gut health plays a crucial role in nutrient metabolism. In short, this is how you break down, absorb, and get energy from food you eat.
- Illness & Recovery: A healthy gut also protects you from illness and harmful pathogens and mediates your inflammatory response to stressors, such as exercise and allergens.
- Antioxidants & Fuel: A properly functioning gut is better at producing short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have antioxidant properties and can be used as a fuel source by your liver and muscle cells.
- Hydration: You gut plays a huge role in the absorption of fluids and electrolytes and can help you maintain good hydration and proper electrolyte balance.
A recent review article on the gut and endurance exercise highlights the importance of improving gut health by dietary means, such as probiotic supplementation. Incorporating probiotic-rich fermented foods into your diet is an easy way to increase the number and diversity of the beneficial microbes that reside in your gut.
A few of our favorite fermented foods:
- Sauerkraut: The classic version is fermented cabbage with caraway seeds. You can get creative by adding your favorite veggies. Our favorite combination is cabbage + ginger + carrots. This lovely sour dish goes well as a side dish or as a mid day snack with an avocado, and you can't beat the benefits of supporting the growth of good bacteria in your stomach.
- Yogurt: We like to make live cultured Greek yogurt. We recommend starting with organic, grass fed milk and we love our local Strauss Family Farm milk.
- Kombucha: This beverage is made by fermenting tea using a SCOBY, also known as a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. (Did you know kombucha originated in Japan over 2,000 years ago?) We love brewing our own green tea version and drink it daily for digestive support.
- Pickles: There's nothing better than a well-loved fermented cucumber! If you want the probiotic benefit, look for the refrigerated version and make sure it doesn’t contain vinegar (the fermentation will naturally produce the sour flavor).
- Kimchi: A Korean staple of fermented veggies with lots of chilis and garlic. While the base is mostly cabbage, the bacteria, which ferments this dish, is actually different from Sauerkraut. Luckily though, everything works well with avocado.
Try to add at least one serving of probiotic-rich fermented foods daily, and reap the benefits of a happy, healthy gut. Who knows, maybe that elusive PR is only a glass of kombucha away!