Why Overexercising Is Bad News For Your Gut

Exercise might not be a magic remedy, but it sure is close. It has the ability to ward off serious conditions like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Are you struggling with depression, anxiety, or migraines? Physical activity will lend a hand. Even debilitating problems like arthritis will improve with exercise. With so many benefits, doesn’t it make sense to exercise all day long? Not quite.

A hardcore routine can actually hurt your gut. It houses trillions of bacteria, outnumbering cells 10 to 1. Plus, nearly 70% of your immune system resides in the gut. Your health literally depends on these microscopic bodyguards.1 2


The gut can take a nosedive if you work out too much. Sure, maybe you’re doing everything else “right” like avoiding refined sugars and getting enough shut-eye. You’re probably also managing stress and eating veggies like a pro. Yet, all of this won’t matter if you push the body too hard.3 4 5

Listen To Your Gut

Keep an eye out for signs of inflammation from your gut


The factor in question is the intestinal barrier. Normally, intestinal mucosa prevents the absorption of harmful particles and substances. This protective function – also known as permeability – depends on the spaces between intestinal cells called enterocytes. When these cells are close together, the defensive barrier is doing its job. But if the spaces widen? The result is a leaky gut, a syndrome that sparks a pro-inflammatory immune response.6

Most causes of leaky gut aren’t surprising. Long-time suspects include processed foods and high-sugar, low-fiber diets. Chronic stress and overusing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also high up on the list. And while many health-savvy folks manage these factors, intense exercising is rarely considered.7 8


How Heavy Exercise Affects The Gut

Overtraining stresses out the gut and intestinal tract

It comes down to only one specific thing: stress. According to the Journal of the International Society and Sports Nutrition, hardcore physical activity induces enough physical and emotional stress to change the gut’s microbiota balance. This degrades the intestinal mucus and weakens barrier function.


Moreover, many hardcore athletes eat far more protein than plants. As a result, bacterial diversity and function decrease, leading to a poor immune response. Neurotransmitter synthesis also takes a hit, causing brain fog and mood swings. You won’t even have enough energy to work out on the regular.9

How To Fix A Leaky Gut

First thing’s first. Slow down! Let your body rest in between workouts. Recovery is vital for getting stronger, and it’s up to you to allow time for that. You can also heal a leaky gut in these five ways.


1. Eat Probiotics

Probiotics reduce the stress in your gut

Don’t forget that stress reduces the diversity of gut bacteria. To restore the balance, eat probiotics like high-quality kefir, yogurt, miso, and kimchi. You can also take supplements, but be sure to check the expiration date.10


2. Take Prebiotics

Prebiotics help balance out your gut microbiota

Probiotics can’t do it alone. In order to grow and thrive, good bacteria need prebiotics or fiber that is only digested in the large intestine. Tasty examples include honey, onions, asparagus, rye, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, and oats.11


3. Limit Refined Sugar

Try to avoid intake of refined sugar as much as possible

If refined sugar isn’t already on your radar, change that. Pay closer attention to foods that have added sugar and sweeteners. Can’t give up the occasional donut or cookie? Seek out healthier alternatives using natural forms of sugar.

4. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish

Lack of exercise lets inflammation flourish, but overexercising does the same thing. Remember that stress isn’t good for the body! Get a handle on it by eating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, almonds, and avocado. Fatty fish is also an exceptionally rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.12

5. Increase Fiber Intake

Increase Fiber Intake

Again, many athletes focus on protein instead of plants. However, it’s what the gut needs to maintain better microbial balance, as seen in Mediterranean diets. So be more diligent about your fruits and veggies! It’ll improve barrier function, leading to better stress levels and immune response.13 14