The summer bod season is a few weeks away here in Montreal and promises of dream physiques blossom like trees. Motivation flows freely now that the warmer weather melted the snow and chased off the harsh Quebec winter. Summer health trends range from runs along the Lachine canal to outdoor boot camps on the city’s Royal Mountain or the many acclaimed long-distance events. This innate burst of inspiration ends a six-month hibernation for Montrealers whose 2017 New-Year’s resolutions got buried underneath a thick layer of ice.
Now, should you resist the instinct to step outside and burn every calorie under the sun for extended periods of time this summer? A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology — Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology suggests you should be careful when pursuing your fitness goals. The team of researchers noted measurable exercise-induced disruption of healthy gut microbes and increased inflammation after four days of military style cross-country skiing in highly trained subjects.
A group of 73 Norwegians soldiers skied close to 31 miles while carrying 99-pound backpacks and had their blood and stool sampled before and after the exercise. Adverse changes in digestion markers exposed the detrimental impact of physical stress on critical health metrics, even in these uber fit individuals. (Science Daily, 2017)
Intestines must remain at an optimal level of permeability to protect your inner world from harmful substances while letting crucial nutrients in for processing, and the trillions of bacteria living inside your gut play a vital role in the maintenance of this barrier. This study exposed the detrimental impact of endurance exercise or other military style training on this microbe balance. The disruption allows more substances to pass into the blood stream and create an inflammatory mess.
Does this mean you should avoid all the vigorous outdoor hustle you love? Not exactly, but the physiological impact of these activities may cause more harm than good if left unchecked, especially for those who rely on a change of season to stay active.
You can take the appropriate steps to mitigate the metabolic damage of go-go fitness on your health, like taking a high quality probiotic, consume significant amounts of prebiotic food like kimchi or sauerkraut, and design a workout strategy focused on recovery.
Train smart this summer, your gut bacteria will thank you.