New study identifies bugs that help runners
Did you know that your gut contains many trillions of bugs that help digest food?
A recent article in Nature Medicine by Scheiman et al has identified a strain of gut microbes present in marathon runners that improves run times. The scientists at Harvard and the Joslin Institute took poop samples from 15 runners at the 2015 Boston marathon. The study then compared the bugs from the runner’s poop with poop samples from non-runners. These rather unpleasant studies revealed that the runners had a greatly increased number of a gut bug called Veilonella atypica. When mice were fed this bug, they could run 13% longer on a mousy treadmill and the investigators used a Lactate Scout as part of this endurance testing.
What’s so special about Veilonella atypica that it increases endurance?
This bug has a metabolic pathway that can only use lactate, and there’s lots of lactate in a marathon runners’ gut (and their muscles, which is why lactate testing is so important in sports performance analysis). This reliance on lactate isn’t unique to this bug, but what is unique is that Veilonella atypica produces propionate as the end-product of lactate metabolism. Propionate is metabolically active and acts to increase fat metabolism. This bug can therefore utilise excess lactate (created by the runners muscles) and also enhance fat metabolism when runners are relying on fat reserves in the latter stages of a race.