Back up Battery of Marathon Runners

Marathon Runners

One wonders whether marathon runners have a long lasing battery such as a toy bunny that is going and going. These long distant runners use energy more efficiently. Lactate is produced by the body during exercise. Lactate, a molecule leftover primarily after sugar and other nutrients are used to produce energy. These Marathon Runners have more of certain bacteria in the digestive tract that can further utilize lactate “spent fuel”. Usually after exercise lactate builds up in the bloodstream and muscles feel weak and tired.

Dr. G. M. Church at Harvard University and Dr. A. D. Kostic at the Joslin Diabetes Center compared the gut microbes of people who ran the 2015 Boston Marathon with those of sedentary people. Veillonella bacteria types in the digestive system can use lactate as a food/energy source. The researchers reported a higher population of Veillonella in the digestive tract of Marathon Runners. Thus the abundance of these bacteria in the gut is significant.

The scientists further tested whether Veillonella could impact exercise performance. They gave a group of mice the Veillonella bacteria taken directly from the marathon runners. They gave another group of mice a different type of bacteria that are unable to use lactate. Mice given the Veillonella ran on average 13% longer on a treadmill. Does lactate formed after exercise in the bloodstream enter the digestive tract so Veillonella bacteria can use and produce more energy?  The researchers found that lactate in blood stream of mice can cross into the gut signifying that lactate generated by exercise can be metabolized by bacteria in the gut.

Olympic trial rowers, the researchers found that the activity of these Veillonella genes, involved in processing lactate, increased after exercise. Veillonella bacteria can also convert propionate to lactate. The scientist found that propionate could also have enhancing effect on exercise. Increased exercise capacity is a strong predictor of overall health and protection against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and overall longevity. These findings suggest strategies, such as a probiotic supplement, might help boost the ability to do meaningful exercise and therefore protect against chronic diseases.

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