This is our final instalment of the 3-part series related to Nutrition, Hydration and Digestive Health in consideration of endurance athletes seeking peak performance. In Part I we discussed the role of Nutrition & Fuelling. In Part II we looked at Hydration Guidelines from Precision Hydration. We invite you to review and apply the guiding principles for this season's training and racing.
Today, we take a shallow dive into the topic of Digestive Health. Why a shallow dive? Well, because the topic of digestive health is deep, complex and rooted in one's unique micro-biome, cellular makeup and compounding life stressors. While one athlete might experience bloating and gas, another athlete may experience irritable bowel syndrome and yet another athlete may experience overwhelming fatigue all of which we can trace back to some form of gut dysbiosis.
What we hope to do here is underscore the importance of gut health and encourage athletes suffering from less than optimum digestion to seek solutions either through Brite Coaching's team of experts or your own network of specialists.
The expression "I had a gut feeling" holds a lot of truth and worth tuning in to if you have an inkling that your inner garden needs some attention.
PART III - HEALTHY DIGESTION & THE ENDURANCE ATHLETE
No matter how many kilometres you log as an endurance athlete, if you are passionate about going long and performing when it counts, you will do nearly anything to keep your streak going strong. Endurance athletes are often the ones that suffer from unidentified symptoms of gut distress be it seen in the lack of quality sleep, mental or emotional instability, unsettled tummy (aka: bloating or gas) in training and life, difficulty losing weight despite training load, suppressed immune system, re-occurring injuries and poor performance outcomes.
Take a minute to think about a time (might be right now) when you felt a little off kilter, a little less "well" or a little out of sorts and what that felt like on global level. Chances are you can identify with some of the symptoms offered here or here. Healing from inner distress can be life changing as it relates to daily comfort and confidence and reaching new levels of athletic, personal, and professional performances.
As a coach to the endurance community, the key markers I look for in declining global health likely related to digestion are chronic reports of poor sleep quality, frequent colds, constant stops during training runs due to loose stools, fluctuations in training consistency, irritability and moodiness, obsessive thoughts and behaviours, inability to hit targets in workouts, anxiety related to racing or performance, changes in appetite and most importantly, a dismal outlook on seeking optimal wellness.
Our bodies and minds are very shifty. When they are not being served or nourished, they make a ruckus and throw everything off. Recent research suggests that gut health and the connection between gut and brain is one of the most important aspects of wellness to address before anything else. Ultra endurance athletes want to pay attention to this since their pursuit depends on assimilation and absorption of nutrients, fuel sources and hydration. If the digestive system is damaged, the body will be unable to support stress loads and thrive. Nutrients will go unabsorbed, the immune system will remain suppressed, the body will carry chronic inflammation in the gut lining and cognitive functions will be impaired. Current scientific interest in the athlete micro-biome is discovering that many of our current ailments, from arthritis, psoriasis, Hashimoto's, depression, diabetes, asthma & even heart disease have some origins in the gut.
If you think you suffer from less than optimal digestion, experienced in a plethora of ways, we encourage you to look deeper into how to heal your gut. We love this resource for more in-depth information about healthy gut protocols, hormonal balancing, immunity support and gut-friendly recipes. Ultimately you want a diagnosis and protocol that addresses your specific issues as a result of testing and working with a team of specialists.
Taking care of your digestive health and gut functions may be the single most important step you can take to support your endurance practice and help you live your happiest and healthiest days.