Researchers Decode the Gut-Muscle Axis

A healthy gut may be key to gym gains.

What’s happening: A trio of recent studies link the microbiome with athletic performance, revealing the gut-muscle axis.

  • Probiotic supplementation boosted running time to fatigue, while elite MMA fighters demonstrated more diverse microbiomes than low-performing athletes.
  • Low or altered populations of microbiota were associated with lower skeletal muscle mass, as well as frailty in older adults.
  • In a study of mice, production of prebiotic-driven fatty acids was tied to increased muscle mass and strength, while those given antibiotics had blunted hypertrophy.

Gut Feeling

Much like the gut-brain axis, the exact mechanisms and bacterial strains that enhance performance remain unclear.

But as the microbiome becomes a central tenet of wellness—impacting everything from exercise motivation to mental health—brands are redefining gut care:

  • Healthspan optimization platform InsideTracker launched a microbiome diagnostic panel and personalized protocols for improved performance.
  • Supplement makers like Advanced Biotics and Fitbiomics are targeting the “athletic microbiome.”
  • Viome analyzes markers of gut microbiome and cellular health for precision nutrition.

Healthy movements. While those who exercise have healthier guts than those who don’t, intense workouts can cause inflammation resulting in leaky gut or impaired recovery — and as many as 86% of athletes suffer gastrointestinal problems associated with exercise.

But, research suggests incorporating mindful movements (like regular walking) can encourage the body to produce protective microbiota — meaning more holistic training could lead to a balanced biome, and vice versa.

Looking ahead: With the help of AI, scientists are discovering strains of beneficial gut bacteria that haven’t even been named yet. As the research emerges, so will new pre-/probiotic powders and protocols that promise to optimize our guts.

Get the latest health and fitness industry news

Keep up with industry news, trends, investment activity, and job openings — in one weekly newsletter.

    No thanks.