The role of the gut and the mi­cro­biome

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES -

High per­form­ing en­durance ath­letes are usu­ally lean. Re­duc­ing ex­cess body fat in­creases power to weight ra­tio, mean­ing it takes less en­ergy to pedal or run – ef­fects only mag­nify as dis­tance in­creases or hills come into play. The feel­ing is that the lighter you are, the faster you’ll go. The ef­fort to get to race weight, or re­duce body weight and fat mass, seems to be a con­stant strug­gle for many en­durance ath­letes.

But, while lean­ness can be as­so­ci­ated with in­creased per­for­mance, it is not true that lighter al­ways equates to faster. Dras­ti­cally or quickly re­duc­ing body will most def­i­nitely not help per­for­mance and may, in fact, be dam­ag­ing to health and/or per­for­mance.

So much of what we read, see and hear on nu­tri­tion and health has a bent to­wards weight loss and, typ­i­cally, pro­motes the idea that it should be a sim­ple equa­tion: calo­ries in, calo­ries out. Un­for­tu­nately, though, that’s not true. foods means that we have to ex­pend less en­ergy break­ing down and di­gest­ing that food. Even sim­ple pro­cess­ing like chop­ping or minc­ing – a whole steak vs. a minced steak – takes me­chan­i­cal en­ergy to break down and yet calo­rie for calo­rie they may be equal. Sim­i­larly, cook­ing, fer­ment­ing and other meth­ods of pre­par­ing or pro­cess­ing foods change the caloric im­pact of a food, mak­ing calo­rie count­ing a very con­fus­ing and in­ac­cu­rate ex­er­cise. En­ergy re­quired for di­ges­tion also dif­fers by macronu­tri­ent – the en­ergy it takes us to break down and di­gest pro­tein is greater than that for fat or car­bo­hy­drate. Pro­tein may sup­press feel­ings of hunger for longer than car­bo­hy­drates with fat also hav­ing a sa­ti­at­ing ef­fect. That fi­bre in those car­rots (and other whole, real foods) feeds the bac­te­ria in your gut and is crit­i­cally im­por­tant in the weight loss/main­te­nance/gain game too. Not only does fi­bre make us feel fuller for longer, but fer­mentable fi­bres help pro­mote a healthy gut mi­cro­biome, which is im­por­tant in many as­pects of health, in­clud­ing weight. Re­searchers have shown that dif­fer­ent strains of bac­te­ria glean dif­fer­ent amounts of en­ergy from the same foods, mean­ing some peo­ple get more bang for their buck than oth­ers even if they have eaten the ex­act same foods. In gen­eral, obese in­di­vid­u­als have dif­fer­ing types of bac­te­ria that ob­tain greater amounts of en­ergy from the same foods than do lean peo­ple.

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