I have always been a big believer that football is not just a game, it’s a way of life. It has taught me lessons that extend far beyond the field, including the importance of physical and mental well-being. As a football player, taking care of my body has always been a top priority, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how crucial gut health is in reaching peak performance.
I had struggled with digestive issues for a while, experiencing bloating, discomfort, and irregularity despite my healthy diet and rigorous training schedule. It wasn’t until I started educating myself on the intricacies of gut health that I realised just how integral it is to overall health and athletic performance. I learned that our gut is home to trillions of bacteria that play a crucial role in regulating our immune system, digestion, and even our mood.
As a football player, having a healthy gut can mean the difference between performing at an average level and being a game-changer on the field. In this article, I will discuss the steps I took to positively change my gut health, from incorporating probiotics into my diet to reducing my stress levels and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. For those of you who are not aware, where I come from we play “Gaelic Football” we use our hands and feet. Below is a picture of my friend playing Infront of a packed audience.
1. Reduce your stress level
As a football player, staying in peak physical condition is essential to my success on the field. One aspect of my health that I have come to place even greater emphasis on in recent times is my gut health. While it may not seem directly related to my athletic performance, I have come to realise that a healthy gut can significantly impact my overall well-being, and in turn, my performance as an athlete.
One thing that I have learned is that stress, whether short-term or chronic, can have a significant effect on my gut. I have experienced the effects of stress on my gut first-hand – when I am experiencing high levels of stress, my appetite decreases, and my digestion slows down. Over extended periods, chronic stress can lead to more serious issues like irritable bowel syndrome and other GI disorders.
In light of this, I have taken steps to better manage my stress levels to promote a healthier gut. One approach that has worked well for me is the practice of yoga. I have found that Hatha or Iyengar yoga, which focuses on alignment and posture, has been particularly helpful in alleviating digestive symptoms and managing stress outcomes.
Another practice that has helped me to manage my stress levels and maintain a healthier gut is mindful meditation. I have discovered that before enjoying a meal, taking two to four rounds of deep breathing can help me to relax and get into a rest and digest mode. Additionally, scientific research supports that mindful meditation can lower inflammation; a stress marker in the body, and in turn, alleviates an overstressed digestive system.
As an ex-smoker, I was aware of the risks associated with this unhealthy habit. To safeguard my gut health and well-being, I decided to reduce smoking gradually until quitting completely. My physician advised me throughout this process making it a much easier journey for me in the end.
2. Incorporate probiotics into your diet
As an athlete, I understand the significance of physical wellness. Consequently, to achieve optimum health both inside and out, I have taken it upon myself to include more fermented foods in my diet as a source of probiotics; a decision which is sure to pay dividends when competing on the field!
I used to believe that yogurt was the only way to improve my gut health, but now I know there are many other options! From sauerkraut in salads and sandwiches for a delicious tangy flavor, or water kefir as an even more beneficial drinkable alternative – probiotics have never been tastier. I have written extensively the importance of probiotics and fermented foods (Especially Kimchi) in a diet plan, especially if your striving for athletic performance. Check it out here.
Recently, I’ve been expanding my palate and exploring the world of fermentation! Kimchi is a fiery staple in Korean cuisine which contains gut-friendly lactobacilli bacteria, a probiotic or good bacteria found in the human gut. Kombucha has also made its way into my routine; it’s tart but refreshingly tasty – what could be better?
Tempeh has quickly become a popular protein option for many people, thanks to its nutty flavor and the health benefits it offers. This meat substitute is made from fermented soybeans which have been formed into cakes – providing probiotics that make meals more nutritious!
Taking a mindful approach to my yogurt consumption, I now make sure to choose only plain and natural yogurt options with low sugar content. This way, I can reap the benefits of beneficial bacteria without any unnecessary added sugars!
By adding more fermented foods to my diet, I have seen a remarkable improvement in my digestion. Not only am I feeling better and stronger during workouts, but also no longer suffer from bloating and other digestive issues. My body is now running optimally thanks to the power of fermentation!
3. Maintain consistent sleep schedule
As a football player, maintaining a sleep schedule has been key to aiding in a healthier gut for me. I have found that my circadian rhythm plays a huge role in how my digestive system functions. When I make sure to get enough sleep, my hormones and thyroid gland function optimally, triggering hunger and the enzyme juices that aid in digestion. There are countless articles written on the importance of sleep for holistic health. However, I would recommend this post from Fatigue Science, which pin points the 5 key areas that sleep impacts athletic performance.
To further boost my digestive health, I have made a conscious effort to eat meals at the same time every day. I have seen first-hand how this routine eating time supports my body’s internal clock and maintains a resilient digestive system. Regular bowel movements have become the norm as a result, which has had a direct impact on my overall mood and state of health.
I had all sorts of digestive issues before and never felt my best. After introducing a regular, healthy digestion routine into my life, not only do I feel better overall but it’s improved even how well I play football!
Maintaining regular bowel movements is essential for football players looking to stay in top shape. Not only does it help flush out toxins, but also keeps the biological rhythm in check – an important element of overall health and fitness. A well-functioning digestive system plays a major role in achieving athletic goals!
Making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can have a major impact on improving gut health. By incorporating probiotics into my daily meals, maintaining regular eating times, and getting enough sleep, I was able to improve my digestive system significantly. These habits not only improved how well I felt mentally and physically but also had positive effects on the way that I play football! If you want to stay in top shape for any sport or activity, be sure to take care of your body from the inside out by focusing on gut health first.