As a personal trainer, you probably get more requests for a flat stomach than you do for a healthy G.I. tract. It turns out that the two are intertwined. Afterall, nobody achieved great abs from being bloated and constipated all the time! Are your clients consuming gut friendly bacteria?
Fit Pros and Probiotics Working Together
With the recent rise in individuals suffering from chronic belly woes you may find yourself working with more clients who can’t beat the bloat. These tummy troubles can affect your client’s progress, self-esteem and stamina while in the gym. The solution here may be small, and I mean microscopic small, but don’t be fooled by its size, these tiny guys are loaded with powerful forces to fight stomach offenders! You may have heard of them, and if not, then I’d like to properly introduce you: give a warm welcome to probiotics.
What puts the PRO in probiotic?
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria naturally found in your gut, also known as live cultures. Their job is to support intestinal health by maintaining a balance of healthy gut flora. Many people are low in this friend-worthy bacteria which is why additional intake of these live microorganisms can be beneficial. Think of it this way: picture your intestines as a war zone, where it’s “good” bacteria vs. “bad”. If the ratio of “bad” bacteria to good is off kilter, this is when tummy trouble stirs. Probiotic consumption acts as the extra armed forces your gut needs to defeat the offending troops and protect the fort from future invaders. Say hello to smooth sailing for your digestive system!
Where are these gut warriors?
Luckily, with the rising popularity of probiotics there a plenty of sources readily available at your local grocery store to choose from. Check these out:
- Yogurt (containing live active cultures)
- Fermented vegetables (i.e. sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles)
- Fermented soybean products (i.e. tempeh, miso, natto)
- Probiotic Liquid or capsule supplements
What about prebiotics?
Just as it suggests in the name, PRE-biotics come before probiotics, acting as food and fuel for the probiotics. Going back to the war zone analogy in your intestines, think of prebiotics as added ammo your good bacteria need to more efficiently fight off the bad guys. Together, this dynamic duo is your ticket for optimal gut health!
Prebiotics can be found in foods containing fructooligosaccharides, which in layman’s terms is basically just a certain type of carbohydrate comprised of fructose sugars. These can be found in foods such bananas, onions, soybeans, whole wheat products, leeks, artichokes, and asparagus. Try pairing some of these sources with your favorite probiotic foods for a tasty and gut-powered meal!
My personal go to probiotic
1 cup of goat’s milk plain yogurt, 1 medium sliced banana, and a sprinkle of whole grain granola. Voila! The ultimate gut friendly goodness crammed into your morning breakfast bowl.
How do you pick the best one and what to look for?
Word on the street is out and probiotics are hotter than ever! It can a bit overwhelming though when shopping for probiotics due to the surplus of gut friendly products out on the market right now. So how do you choose the right one? And what’s the best option? In reality, there is no easy answer to this question, as everyone’s body is individualized, especially when it comes to our digestive system. So let’s just start with the most sought out member of the probiotic family– good ole fashioned yogurt!
Yogurt is still touted by many as the best source of probiotics and for good reason too! As mentioned earlier probiotics are live cultures which means they have an expiration date and can be easily destroyed by heat and an acidic environment. Dairy products are similar in that they have a short shelf life, so you are more likely to consume the probiotics at their highest potency before it goes bad. Plus, dairy foods and probiotics work synergistically—dairy acts as a buffer against stomach acid, increasing absorption of the beneficial bacteria.
Not all yogurt is created equal
Here is what to look for when choosing a probiotic rich yogurt source:
- Contains at least 3 of these strains: Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus under the ingredients list
- Reads: “Contains live active cultures” on the container
- 12 gm or less of sugar (you don’t want the sugar to overpower the amount of good bacteria—too much sugar is not beneficial for both gut and overall health)
- Refrigerated—yogurt loses its beneficial probiotic properties when it is exposed to heat which kills the live active cultures (try consuming yogurt fresh out the fridge for increased benefits)
Many people ask what the difference is between Greek yogurt and plain yogurt. The biggest difference you may notice is the texture of Greek yogurt is a lot smoother and creamier than plain. This is due to different processing techniques. Some products strain the liquid whey and lactose from plain yogurt, giving it that thicker consistency, while others add thickeners such as gelatin, corn starch or whey concentrates.
The health pros of Greek yogurt is it contains higher amounts of protein in comparison to plain yogurt, however, the cons is it looses some of its vitamins and minerals such as Calcium in the former process. Keep in mind when choosing the right product for you to look at the nutrition label.
For those who prefer the supplement form or are unable to consume dairy, it’s important to understand what these two terms on the label mean when choosing the right product:
In regards to strains, the different types of bacteria contained within the supplement which each have different benefits and potency (examples of different strains: Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus, B. longum, S. thermophilus)
CFU (colony forming units) – the total amount of beneficial bacteria in the supplement —look for ones in the billions range or above
When choosing the right probiotic it may require a bit of trial and error to see which one works best, as all our bodies react differently and each of our guts may be lacking in different strains of healthful bacteria. Once finding a source that does work, your clients will see the reason behind probiotics recent claim to fame and their belly will personally thank them for it (and you too for helping them discover it)!
Got questions for Regina, our nutrition intern? Come and ask away!
Regina Pellegrino is a certified Health Coach throughThe Institute for Integrative Nutrition, as well as a certified Fitness Specialist through San Diego Mesa College. She is currently working towards her accreditation as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Her goal is to spread her thirst for knowledge and passion for living a healthy lifestyle by helping others achieve their optimal health. Learn more about Regina at http://