Elimination of microorganisms in the gut reduces motivation and ability to exercise.
According to a recent study, antibiotics destroy essential gut bacteria, which eliminates the motivation and endurance of athletes. According to a study on mice conducted by the University of California, Riverside, an important component that differentiates athletes from couch potatoes is the microbiome.
This study is one of the few that looks at how gut bacteria also influence voluntary exercise habits. While other studies have looked at how exercise affects the microbiome, this study looks at the opposite. Both dexterity and athletic motivation are required for voluntary exercise.
The researchers’ findings were recently published in the journal behavioral processes.
“We believed that the gut bacteria population, its microbiome, would influence digestive processes and muscle function, as well as motivate various behaviours, including exercise,” said Theodore Garland, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of California in whose lab the research was conducted. “Our study reinforces this belief.”
The researchers used stool samples to demonstrate that after 10 days of antibiotic treatment, the gut bacteria of two groups of mice were reduced — those bred for high levels of running, and others not.
Neither group of mice showed any symptoms of disease after treatment with antibiotics. And so the researchers were convinced that germs-related damage was to blame when wheel running in athletic mice was reduced by 21%. The highly aggressive mice also failed to regain running behaviors 12 days after finishing antibiotic treatment.
During and after treatment, the behavior of normal mice did not change significantly.
“The average exerciser with a minor injury wouldn’t be affected much. For a world-class athlete, there could be a much bigger small setback,” said Monica McNamara, a doctoral student in evolutionary biology at UCLA and first author of the research paper. The reason we wanted to compare the two types of mice.” Elimination of the normal gut microbiome might be compared to injury.
One way the microbiome might affect exercise in mice or humans is by its ability to convert carbohydrates into chemicals that travel through the body and affect muscle performance.
“The end metabolic products can be reabsorbed from the bacteria in the gut and used as fuel,” Garland said. “Fewer good bacteria means less fuel available.”
Going forward, the researchers would like to identify the specific bacteria responsible for increased athletic performance. “If we can identify the right microbes, there is potential to use them as a therapy to help normal people get more exercise,” Garland said.
Lack of exercise is known to be a major risk factor for aspects of mental health, including depression, as well as physical health, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Many in the public health community would like to promote exercise, but few have found ways to do so successfully.
“Although we study mice, their physiology is very similar to humans. The more we learn from them, the better our chances of improving our health,” Garland said.
Certain foods may also increase desirable gut bacteria. While developing research into “probiotics,” Garland recommends those interested in promoting overall health maintain a balanced diet in addition to regular exercise.
“We know from previous studies that a Western diet, which is high in fat and sugar, can have a negative impact on your gut biodiversity and potentially, by extension, your athletic ability and perhaps even your motivation to exercise,” Garland said.
Reference: “Oral antibiotics reduce voluntary exercise behavior in athletic rats” by Monica B. McNamara, Marcel de Cadney, Alberto A. Castro, David A. Helles, Kelly M. Kallini, John C. Macbeth, Margaret B. Schmel, Nicole Schwartz, Ansel Hsiao and Theodore Garland Jr., May 4, 2022, Available here. behavioral processes.
DOI: 10.1016 / j.beproc.2022.104650