3 Reasons Athletes Need Probiotics

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If you frequently experience digestive problems, chronic colds or sub-optimal recovery, there's one simple thing you can do to resolve these issues: consume more probiotics.

Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in your gut and in fermented, raw and living foods. They're very important for health and wellness, but their benefits are especially important for endurance athletes.

Really, it's no wonder. Healthy bacteria are crucial to optimal gut health, which is extremely important for overall wellness. It's the gateway through which nutrients affect the body.

Without healthy digestion, foods aren't broken down completely, absorbed efficiently, or eliminated properly. Without a healthy gut, whole, harmful proteins can invade the blood stream and cause inflammation and immune-function reactions. Immune function is decreased and overall health is compromised.

More: Everything You Need to Know About Probiotics

Luckily, the inverse is also true. A healthy gut leads to better digestion, overall health and immune function.

How Probiotics Benefit Endurance Athletes

  • They improve recovery by increasing antioxidant absorption. Since free radicals are abundant after training, it's important that athletes meet them head-on with high amounts of antioxidants in recovery and throughout each day. When eaten during recovery, probiotics increase antioxidant absorption, and thereby promote extra free radical fighting just when you need it.
  • Probiotics support immune function by promoting higher levels of the natural virus fighter, interferon, which is decreased in fatigued athletes. Ever notice how some endurance athletes are sick more often than less-healthy individuals who don't exercise as much? With endurance training, many athletes cross the line from improving health with exercise to hurting it, in some areas, anyway. One area of suppression is the immune system, and specifically interferons, which are proteins made and released by cells in response to the presence of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and tumor cells. Studies have shown an increase in interferons in fatigued athletes with the supplementation of healthy bacteria, and thereby a decrease in illnesses such as mononucleosis.
  • Healthy bacteria improves digestion by increasing the bioavailability and absorption of proteins and fats. Healthy bacteria can improve the digestion of these nutrients in the stomach and intestines. Athletes have some of the highest nutrient needs of anyone, and these needs are best met when digestion is improved. What's more, they can acutely reduce nausea, intestinal inflammation, bloating and hypersensitivity to foods—common complaints among athletes during and after training.

More: 5 Digestion Tips for Athletes