Manage Your Gut Flora for a Better Ride

What's going on in your gut can mean the difference between a good day on the bike and a bad one.

After all, your stomach is where you process all those nutrients that fuel your ride. When it's out of whack, your riding will suffer. (Learn how to tell whether you're on the right track with these 7 Signs Your Training is Working.)

It all comes down to microbe management. Your digestive system is home to trillions of bacteria. Some are beneficial and keep you healthy; others are the kind that can make you sick.

More: Bacteria That's Good for You

As long as there's a balance between the good and bad, your system will function normally, says Shekhar Challa, MD, author of Probiotics for Dummies. But when that equilibrium is thrown off—thanks to anything from taking antibiotics (they kill all bacteria) to stress, age, even exercise—you start feeling lousy.

You can restore a healthy balance using probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, which are found naturally in your body and in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. Here's how probiotics can improve your health—and your ride.

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Settle Your Stomach

Heartburn, cramps, nausea, and gas are common among cyclists, especially before, during, and after a race or event. By improving your digestive function, probiotics can help reduce those complaints.

Introduce them to your diet slowly to allow your stomach time to adjust to the new cultures, says Jo Ann Hattner, MPH, RD, author of Gut Insight.

"And start taking them at least two weeks before an event to prevent surprises, like gas and bloating," she says. Hattner also suggests consulting a physician before you start using probiotics.

More: Should You Add Probiotics to Your Meals?

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