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Biology, Sport, Uncategorized

Performance enhancing bacteria?

While it seems wrong to not write about the eclipse after yesterday’s event, I really can’t add anything that isn’t already out there so instead I’m going for something completely different.

With several members of the Canadian track and field team being impacted by norovirus at the recent 2017 World Championships in Track and Field, it is not hard to imagine how viruses and bacteria can have a negative effect on performance, but is it possible to cultivate certain probiotics to improve performance and/or recovery?

Nichols (2007) conducted a review of the literature at the time and determined that this is not a well studied area. In fact, he only identified two studies, both of which indicated that probiotics may improve immune response in athletes who are fatigued. This may result in improved recovery.

A recent study examined the gut bacteria composition (type and quantity of each type) of marathoners one week before and after participating in the 2015 Boston marathon. They found there were more bacteria that break down lactic acid (a byproduct of intense muscle use – it is what makes your muscles feel like they are burning) post race. Whether this has an impact on fatigue levels is yet to be determined.

In another study, the same researchers found that ultramarathoners and Olympic level rowers have different gut bacteria compositions, indicating that different sports may impact (or perhaps be impacted by) the type and quantity of bacteria present. It would be interesting to compare power versus endurance or sprint versus endurance for example.

The researchers hope that they will be able to develop specific probiotic supplements that will improve sport performance for elite athletes and others. I think there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered but I have to admit that the idea that eating my yogurt in the morning might improve my afternoon run is an appealing one.

American Chemical Society. (2017, August 20). No guts no glory: Harvesting the microbiome of athletes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170820075017.htm

Nichols, A. (2007). Probiotics and athletic performance: A systematic review. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 6(4), 269-273. DOI: 10.1097/01.CSMR.0000306483.85035.b7

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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