We know that fostering the proper types of bacteria in your gut can quell inflammation and lead to better health in general, but now there's mind-blowing evidence that suggests the right gut bacteria might help you grow muscle and build endurance.
Granted, the new evidence is from an experiment done on mice, but there's hope the results could transfer to people.
More Muscle, Less Fat, Better Swimmers
The experiment was simple. They fed Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria to one group of mice while a control group didn't receive any probiotics.
After six weeks, they found that the body comp of the mice had changed for the better. Their muscle mass had increased (as determined by weighing their gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) and their fat mass had dropped (as determined by measuring the thickness of their epididymal fat pad).
Additionally, the mice in the probiotic group had developed more gastrocnemius muscle fibers. True, the muscle fibers were of the Type 1 variety (the slow-twitch type more involved in endurance activities), but the muscle fiber developed without the inclusion of aerobic or anaerobic exercise.
Who knows what would have happened if the mice had been forced to exercise by running on an incline treadmill. Maybe they would have developed more Type II fibers, the kind that do most of the growing when you lift weights.
The Lactobacillus group of mice could also swim in water much longer before exhaustion than the control group. Blood tests showed that members of the probiotic group had less lactic acid, ammonia, and creatine kinase in their blood, all apparently because of their friendly bacterial guests.
Where Do I Find This Bacteria?
The Taiwanese researchers studied the effects of L. plantarum because it's found in Taiwanese pickled cabbage, but you don't have to shop in an Asian market to benefit from this bacterium.
It's also spontaneously produced in sauerkraut. While other types of bacterium are also found in sauerkraut, you can tell if L. plantarum is the dominant bacteria in the sauerkraut you're eating by its taste. If it's particularly vinegary and acidic, you've hit the L. plantarum jackpot.
To benefit from it, eat a couple of tablespoons of sauerkraut every day for at least a month and note any changes. It's possible you won't notice significant changes in fat mass, endurance, or strength, but you'll surely benefit from reduced inflammation and better digestion.
- Chen, YM, et al, Lactobacillus plantarum TWK10 Supplementation Improves Exercise Performance and Increases Muscle Mass in Mice. Nutrients, 2016 Apr 7;8(4):205.