Athletes: physical performance comes from the gut

Athletes do not have the same intestinal bacteria as non-athletes. This difference would be due to the increased need in athletes for a stronger and more varied microbiota to cope with the imbalances associated with intense physical effort. The more an athlete has a well-functioning intestine, the more he can improve his performance.

Intense physical activities such as running, cycling or swimming for a prolonged period upset the balance of the body. Changes in electrolyte balance, intestinal permeability, as well as an increase in oxidative stress take place. This provokes a defensive and inflammatory reaction in the body. The authors develop the hypothesis that the microbiota is also involved in this process, which would have an influence on the performance and health of the athlete.

Feed your intestinal flora well with probiotics for better performance

By comparing the microbiota of athletes to that of healthy non-athlete subjects, the researchers found that the former had better gut health and diversity. This allowed them to better manage the disruption of homeostasis. The microbiota could thus serve as an effective and quantifiable marker for an athlete’s immune function. A modification in the microbiota by taking pre- and probiotics and other functional foods could thus improve health and performance.

Pre and probiotics to boost good bacteria

The authors propose a functional diet for the microbiota as a therapeutic tool, in order to improve the general health, the performance and the metabolism of the athlete. This also helps to better control the levels of inflammation and oxidation.

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They call for more studies to be carried out, with a view to developing new therapeutic and nutritional strategies, in the context of intense physical activity.


Mach N. et al., Endurance exercise and gut microbiota: A review. Journal of Sport and Health Science.


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