Gain muscle and lose fat by taking a probiotic to improve the health of your gut. Recent studies show that there are thousands of different kinds of bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract and it’s these microbiota that regulate fat storage and other metabolic functions such as protein synthesis. Don’t let a “bad” bacteria keep you from reaching your goals.
A new study in the journal PLOS One identified 26 types of intestinal bacteria linked to factors that contribute to obesity. These “bad” bacteria produce insulin resistance, change the metabolism of sugars in the body, and affect the use of carbohydrates and fats for energy in the body.
Researchers took a population of Amish adults and sequenced the DNA of the microbes found in their guts. The Amish are ideal for a study like this because they are a homogenous population with very similar eating, physical activity, social, and lifestyle habits. Plus, they have limited medication use, and it is well known that taking medications or NSAIDs like Tylenol can compromise your gut bacteria.
Researchers found that there were three basic communities of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tracts of the Amish, but there were also 26 other rare “bad” bacteria forms that were found in the participants who had more body fat and insulin resistance. In addition, the Amish who were overweight had high levels of inflammation, and they had a lack of “good” bacteria that are known to be anti-inflammatory.
This study is supported by other recent studies showing that people with diabetes who are overweight have different kinds of bacteria in their guts than people who are lean and have optimal insulin health. And, when an overweight person loses weight, their gut bacteria changes to match that of a leaner person!
A solution to obesity that is just beginning to gain support is to give people who are overweight large doses of “good” probiotics in order to improve their guts. For example, in one study, taking a probiotic when eating a high-fat diet resulted in no increase in belly fat, whereas a placebo group did gain belly fat. The reason is that the probiotic decreased inflammation, which allowed for the body to use glucose better for energy. Insulin sensitivity increased, and participants also improved mental functioning.
For strength trainees or athletes, a healthy gut is essential because it will allow for the body to clear waste products produced during training such as lactic acid and markers of inflammation. This means you will recover faster, but it supports protein synthesis at the same time because it ensures that muscle building pathways get activated when you train, producing the greatest anabolic response. Plus, a probiotic will help the body use energy effectively to speed recovery.
There are a few things you need to know to get the most out of a probiotic:
• Probiotics are found naturally in yogurt and other fermented foods. However, most people can’t get enough probiotics in their diet to produce fat loss or even make a difference in their health and will need to supplement.
• Take a dose that includes at least 1 billion count of live bacteria. Many people need to start with a higher dose in the 25 to 50 billion count range, but once the gut bacteria begins to shift, not as high a dose is needed.
• Be sure to get a good quality probiotic that is guaranteed to have live bacteria.
• Make sure you are also getting a prebiotic, which differs from a probiotic. Prebiotics are a form of fiber that is not digested by humans, but is used by probiotics for food. Prebiotics come from high-fiber foods such as wheat, chicory, and oats, which means that if you eat gluten-free, don’t eat grains, or eat a low-carb diet, you will be deficient in prebiotics. Look for a prebiotic that has glactans, phosphatides, inulin, or plantain if you are gluten free.
• Make sure you are getting adequate fiber in general—less than 5 percent of Americans get the government recommended 25 grams a day. People who limit carbs are often deficient in fiber, and as you increase protein intake, you need more fiber. Try a fiber supplement blend and eat lots of green vegetables.
Zupancic, M., Canarel, B., et al. Analysis of the Gut Microbiota in the Old Order Amish and Its Relation to the Metabolic Syndrome. PLOS One. 2012. 7(8), e43052.
Kadooka, Y., Sato, M., et al. Regulation of Abdominal Adiposity by Probiotics (Lactobacillus Gasseri SBT2055) in Adults with Obese Tendencies in a Randomized Controlled Trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010. 64, 636-643.
Chen, J., Wang, R., et al. Bifidobacterium Adolescentis Supplementation Ameliorates Visceral Fat Accumulation and Insulin Sensitivity in an Experimental Model of the Metabolic Syndrome. British Journal of Nutrition. September 2011. 14, 1-6.