Gut health has exploded in notoriety the past few years. What was once a subject matter that most people didn’t care to think about (let alone discuss in public), is now at the forefront of research and discourse.
The more time spent delving into the gut, the more we learn the multitude of ways in which it impacts our daily lives. To put it simply, the gut affects:
- Cognitive function
- Skin health/appearance
- Immune function
- Physical performance
- And more
Given the many ways that gut health affects our bodies, many people are wondering what is the impact of gut health and your physique?
It’s no secret that exercise and nutrition are an essential part of losing fat, building muscle, and completing a transformation challenge, but what (if any) role does gut health play in chiseling a fine physique?
Let’s begin by doing a brief overview of the human gut.
What is the Gut, Exactly?
The gut is a part of the digestive tract that serves as a barrier between the rest of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and our insides that allows or prevents certain nutrients, toxins, etc from entering our internal environment.
The bacterial makeup of our gut dictates which nutrients and/or toxins enter the body, which can impact our health & wellness in a number of ways.
Our gut contains a complex ecosystem of ~300-500 bacterial species, comprising nearly 2 million genes. In fact, the number of bacteria within the gut (40-50 trillion bacteria) is approximately 10 times that of all of the cells in the human body!
The composition of the gut microbiome depends on several factors, including (but not limited to):
- Lifestyle stress
Good Bacteria vs Bad Bacteria
Bacteria has a connotation of being something that is bad or harmful; however, as we just pointed out, our bodies are composed of more bacteria than human cells. So, bacteria can’t be all that bad, can they?
Truth be told, there are both good and bad bacteria.
Good bacteria help break down indigestible foods (fiber) which aids digestive health and weight loss. However, the benefits of a healthy gut go way beyond better digestion -- it also leads to better mood, focus, energy levels, immune function, and skin health.
Conversely, bad bacteria are nefarious little microbes that seek to invest and replicate in your body, leading to illness and disease. Maintaining the right balance between good and bad bacteria is paramount if your goal is optimal gut health.
Gut Health & Physique
Now that we’ve got the basics of gut health covered, you’re probably wondering how it affects your physique.
A healthy gut has a balance between the two most popular types of bacteria:
An imbalance of gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis or dysbacteriosis, may impact your ability to properly metabolize the nutrients you eat as well as weight loss.
Research has found that levels of Bacteroidetes levels were significantly lower in obese individuals compared to lean individuals. Additionally, levels of Firmicutes were much higher in obese individuals compared to lean ones.
Other studies have found that changes in the human gut can impact glucose metabolism as well as those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
While the amount of human research on the gut’s impact on body composition is somewhat limited, there have been some intriguing discoveries in animal studies.
For instance, researchers transplanted the bacteria from obese mice into lean mice.[5,6,7]
Lean subjects gained fat rapidly without changing their diet or exercise while the obese subjects lost weight quickly. Furthermore, individuals with a healthy gut gained less fat and had better markers of glucose and insulin from a high fat/high carb diet (the typical American diet).
Again these findings were in mice, but it does speak to impact that maintaining a healthy gut can have on your physique.
How to Optimize Gut Health for Physique & Health
Eat a Variety of High-Quality Foods
The gut is populated by hundreds of different strains of bacteria. To keep this good bacteria happy and well-fed, it’s imperative to eat a diverse diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
This provides a broad range of nutrients for the various bacteria in your gut.
Get Enough Fiber & Resistant Starch
While our bodies do not derive nutrition from fiber, the bacteria in our gut ferment it and produce important molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that confer a wide range of beneficial effects to our bodies.
Not consuming enough fiber starves the bacteria, which could lead to disruptions in GI health and function.
Furthermore, consuming fiber and resistant starch has been shown to increase satiety (making you less likely to overeat) as well as increase calorie expenditure -- both of which help you maintain a lean and healthy physique.
With the increased emphasis on gut health, there has been a concomitant increase in the number of gut health supplements.
These can be incredibly beneficial for individuals who struggle to get enough fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics in their diet.
We’ve done the research and created a pair of premium supplements to support and nourish the gut.
Vegan Greens & Reds Superfoods supplies 19 organic greens, fruits and vegetables in every scoop! Also included are organic prebiotics, probiotics and fiber as well as a metabolic support complex to promote gut health, boost metabolism, and support healthy digestion.
Fiber Plus is a leading 3-in-1 gut health supplement that includes added vitamins and antioxidants. Every serving includes three types of prebiotic fiber along with heat-stable probiotics and vitamin C to help with hunger, eliminate toxins, and promote weight loss.
- Quigley EM. Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2013;9(9):560-569
- Walters, W. A., Xu, Z., & Knight, R. (2014). Meta-analyses of human gut microbes associated with obesity and IBD. FEBS letters, 588(22), 4223-4233.
- Ley, R. E., Turnbaugh, P. J., Klein, S., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature, 444(7122), 1022.
- Burcelin, R., Serino, M., Chabo, C., Blasco-Baque, V., & Amar, J. (2011). Gut microbiota and diabetes: from pathogenesis to therapeutic perspective. Acta diabetologica, 48(4), 257-273
- Ley, R. E., Turnbaugh, P. J., Klein, S., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature, 444(7122), 1022-1023.
- Turnbaugh, P. J., Hamady, M., Yatsunenko, T., Cantarel, B. L., Duncan, A., Ley, R. E., & Egholm, M. (2009). A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. nature, 457(7228), 480-484.
- Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. nature, 444(7122), 1027-131.