Many athletes complain of fatigue, upper respiratory tract infections and digestive upset when the stress of training increases through changes in training volume and or intensity.
By paying attention to your ecosystem and harnessing the health benefits of pre and probiotic foods, you may jolt some improvements in your athletic performance and over all well-being via enhanced recovery, improved immune function and the maintenance of a healthy gut. Prebiotics foods are those foods with fructans or resistant starches (inulin) that trigger the ongoing growth and performance of the probiotics (also known as your “good” bacteria) in the gut. Work prebiotics into your diet by regularly including plant based foods that are sources of fructans or inulin (see table below). You can also check the ingredient list of packaged foods such as cereals, cookies, breads, and yoghurts to see if inulin has been added. Probiotics are the live micro-organisms contained in the food we eat. They survive the process of digestion so that they can flourish and multiply in the large intestine to maintain a healthy digestive balance (West, N.P., Pyne, D.B., Peake, J.M., Cripps, A.W. Probiotics, immunity and exercise: A review. Exer Immunol Rev. 2009: 15-107-26). Probiotics are found in fermented foods and foods containing active or live cultures of yeasts or bacteria (see table below). Some of these are carbohydrate:protein combinations (e.g. buttermilk, yogurt, kefir) making them important potential contributors to post workout refueling. Pre- and probiotics work best together so develop and maintain their synbiotic relationship in your gut by including dietary sources of both on a regular basis. Examples include sourdough bread with peanut and banana; honey sweetened yoghurt with muesli; steamed asparagus spears with a tempeh spinach salad; home-made vegetarian pizza; vegetable stir fry with beans and rice; wheat crackers with fermented pickles and slices of gouda.