I have a pretty solid personal feeling that gut microbes have a TON of influence on not just athletic peformance—from personal observation over 20 years of athletic and other performance.
Great preliminary work that deserves further study. The whole microbiome area is incredible and in my view will result in life-changing benefits once understood with “miracle” cures coming.
Microbes that flourished in the guts of some runners after a marathon boosted the time that lab mice ran on a treadmill, researchers report June 24 in Nature Medicine. These particular microbes seem to take lactate, pumped out by muscles during exercise, and turn it into a compound that may help with endurance.
In the study, researchers collected stool samples from 15 elite runners for five days before and after they ran in the 2015 Boston Marathon, and compared the samples’ microbial makeup with that of poop collected from 10 nonrunners. The runners’ samples showed a bump in the abundance of bacteria from the genus Veillonella after the race. The team also saw an increase in Veillonella in a group of 87 ultramarathoners and Olympic trial rowers after a workout.
This finding raised the question of whether these microbes were mere bystanders or were actually helping their hosts. So the researchers cultured one strain, Veillonella atypica, from a runner and fed it to mice. Not all of the 32 mice responded to the treatment, but on average, mice that received the microbes ran for 13 percent longer in experiments than mice in a control group.
The work shows that “a single bout of exercise can have effects on your microbiome,” says Jeffrey Woods, an exercise physiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But he is skeptical of whether the improvement in the mice’s stamina is important, noting that the mice were tested in a series of short runs that “isn’t anything like the marathon run.” The researchers might have found other microbes at play if more stool samples had been studied, he says.
The authors, however, say that the microbes could boost athletic performance. In a race, “sometimes people worry about a fraction of a second … this could be much more than that,” says biotechnologist George Church at Harvard University.