“Pro – what?”
In a supplement series, you’d probably be expecting articles on fish oils and post-workout powders, but probiotics? Probably not.
We do have earlier posts in the series on your more “conventional supplements” (check the links below,) but for today, we’ll put probiotics on a pedestal, and look at exactly what they are, why you need them, and how they fit into your regime.
If you did miss parts 1 to 4 of the supplement series however, you can check them out here –
Part 1 – Post-Workout Supplements
Part 2 – Magnesium
Part 3 – Omega-3
Part 4 – Fiber
Either head off for 20 minutes now, get your head down and plough through these four, then come back to today’s post, or bookmark the above, get your teeth into probiotics, then refer back to parts 1 to 4.
Probiotics are the final piece of the supplement puzzle, and in many peoples’ eyes not as crucial as other “super supps” but by neglecting them, you could well be doing yourself out of results.
Like every supplement featured in parts 1 to 4, you can obtain probiotics from your diet.
But let’s face it, there are a few reasons why this isn’t always optimal –
Firstly, many modern diets are deficient in the “good stuff.”
Over the years, our food has been altered so that it’s a little different to how nature intended, and with diets revolving so heavily around junk and convenience foods these days, supplements can come in very useful.
Likewise, it’s sometimes just easier to top up your baseline levels with a supplement, and, if you’re training hard on a regular basis, your daily requirements are very likely higher than the average Joe’s, who does nothing but sit at a desk all day.
Probiotics themselves are actually a type of bacteria.
Yep – that’s right, I’m telling you that you should be eating more bacteria.
Well, not so much.
See, there are different types of bacteria, and probiotics certainly fit into the “good bacteria” category. They play a key role in maintaining gut health and an efficient immune system.
Pros of Probiotics
Aside from a general “gut health” perspective, what else can an increased intake of probiotics help you with?
- Treating and preventing irritable bowel disease
- Reducing the symptoms of lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, colic and pouchitis.
- Protecting premature babies from gut disease
- Boosting your immune system
- Preventing general colds, sickness and illness
These benefits may not sound as “sexy” as something like creatine, which boosts stores of ATP-PC and makes you virtually instantaneously stronger, or beta alanine, that can give an immediate energy kick and lead to increased endurance, but one of the big reasons people don’t make the progress they should is due to missing sessions. And probiotics will definitely help with this.
Whether you skip workouts through genuine illness, or just because you’re “not feeling up for the gym” – if you can improve your general health and wellbeing by taking a probiotic, and make yourself feel better 24/7, meaning you get more workouts in, and perform better every single time, why wouldn’t you?
A Bit More “Science” on Probiotics
Chances are you just want to know what the benefits of probiotics are (which we’ve covered) and how you can get more into your nutrition plan. (We’ll touch on that in a short while.)
But for those who want to go a little more in-depth, we’ll delve into what exactly probiotics do.
Probiotics are living microscopic organisms, and are similar to the good bacteria that are already in your body.
Despite all the research that’s gone into them, scientists still can’t decide conclusively exactly how probiotics work, though it is thought that they –
- Produce substances that prevent infection
- Inhibit and destroy toxins released by bad bacteria, that would otherwise cause sickness and illness
- Protect the gut lining
- Produce B vitamins. (These are essential for digesting and metabolizing certain foods.)
- Boost the effectiveness of mucus in your stomach, which acts as a barrier to disease and infection.
Finding Probiotic Foods
Can you get probiotics from food?
And I’d argue you should actively be looking to get more of these into your diet, regardless of whether you supplement with extra or not.
- Live yogurt. (You can also get yogurt with added probiotics, or go for a version naturally high in them, such as yogurt made from goat’s milk.)
- (This is a live, fermented yogurt.)
- Miso soup. While many folks in the fitness industry are anti-soy, in its natural form (i.e. NOT soy milk, soy chips or fake meat products) soy can do a body good with its probiotics.
- Pickles – and any other pickled food in fact.
A Little Extra Flora
Unless you have a specific medical condition, or have been told otherwise by your doctor, there’s no reason why extra probiotics in supplement form would be a drawback.
Most probiotics come in capsule or tablet form, and your best bet is to go with one that has a mix of bacterial strains, and stick with the recommended dosage.
If you have been feeling a little more run down lately, getting digestive discomfort and unable to identify a culprit in your diet, or just want a way to boost your general health and energy levels, a probiotic is a low-risk, low-cost way