Gut Health is Linked to Exercise Motivation

Motivation to exercise, or lack thereof, might come down to a healthy gut.

What’s happening: A recent study found gut microbiome composition affected how long mice took to exhaust themselves on a treadwheel. How often they voluntarily ran in the wheel was also impacted.

  • When treated with antibiotics to deplete gut microbes, mice got exhausted earlier and ran less often.
  • A healthy population (trillions) of microbes was a more telling predictor of motivation than genetic, metabolic, or behavioral traits.

Between the lines: The process appears to work through specific gut microbes activating dopamine sensors in the brain, which triggers a natural and intense feeling of pleasure and reward.

Low or imbalanced dopamine, crucially, is linked to a poor drive for and adherence to physical activity, as well as major depressive disorder (MDD).

Though the trial was on mice, if a similar pathway is confirmed in humans, it could offer an effective way to increase levels of exercise.

With researchers successfully reactivating dopamine pathways with both drugs and fatty acid supplements, it could also accelerate a future filled with exercise-motivating pills and powders.

The dopamine link. A focal point for health optimizers like Dr. Andrew Huberman, dopamine management is going mainstream for its noted improvements to mental well-being, sleep, social health, and more.

As detoxes from constant, cheap forms of dopamine (like screens and social media) take hold, new interests and nascent categories related to the gut-brain axis have emerged:

  • Holobiome is developing novel gut therapeutics with queuine, a vitamin-like molecule that influences healthy aging and dopamine synthesis.
  • Biopharma firm Kallyope raised $236M last February to scale its research of the gut-brain axis, including serotonin- and dopamine-regulating therapeutics.
  • Supplement brand Supergut focuses on resistant starch, a prebiotic that improves dopamine signaling.

Looking ahead: New supplements pop up every day. But, science-backed, microbiome-focused PEDs for athletes, that go beyond marketing hype, might be next.

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