As we discover more and more about the gut microbiome, newer products and niches come out claiming the end all and be all when it comes to supplementation. Probiotics is one that seems to hit this very confusing, gray area.
Here’s the thing. Probiotics ARE super beneficial for the body. They are the good bacteria that live in your gut and allow your body to thrive. For those of you solely focused on “MACROS BRUH” and “GAINZ”, having the RIGHT bacteria flourishing in your body are what allow for those said bro gainz. In fact, if your gut is all messed up because you’re all about ‘If It Fits Your Macros’, and squeezing in pancakes and M&M’s into your daily calories, you are for SURE someone who needs to make sure their gut is in check. Otherwise the 1g/lb protein consumption doesn’t mean very much. I know, I must be blowing bodybuilders minds right now.
So What’s the Answer?
Having said all that, I have always been a fan of the FOOD FIRST rule. What’s your big picture look like? Are you eating nutritionally dense high quality foods? Getting enough sleep? Working out consistently? If you’re not doing the basics, then a pill ain’t going to do jack sh*t (pardon my french). That goes for anything in the fitness world.
Assuming you ARE doing the big things right, then I recommend first aiming to include good sources of probiotics into your meals.
Including it daily should help keep you rounded out. As long as you don’t have any other underlying issues (diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s), then I’d suggest only taking a probiotic on those days you’re feeling bloated, or having trouble digesting a particular meal (usually ends up being days you fall off your normal plan or cheat days). You may notice you feel better, and a lot less bloated or foggy afterwards. Otherwise, don’t feel the need to take a probiotic every day (again, assuming everything else is functioning well).
What Kind Should I Buy?
I can’t really make any hardcore suggestions as to which type to buy. I’ve been hearing a lot of conflicting advice lately. On one hand you want as many strains as possible, but on the other, you should have done a blood test and more ideally see what SPECIFIC strain you are lacking. Others say it doesn’t matter because it’ll never survive the gut. And that’s IF it even survived the shipping process when you ordered it (bacteria needs to be in a cold environment to stay stable). Just get your blood test and figure out what's individual to you. If not, find the highest strains you can from a reputable company and see if you notice a difference.
Bonus - what does a probiotic do?
It mitigates inflammation, which can cause irritability and depression in some individuals. Food is usually broken down in the stomach (via acid), or small intestine. Those days you feel extra soft and bloated, usually means the food somehow didn’t breakdown, and travelled into the large intestine. This isn’t typical, hence the inflammatory response (aka your body going wtf is this and how did it get this far? INVADER!)
Probiotics fight those harmful bacteria, and help regulate the immune system and restoring balance. That’s why you see those with IBS, or Crohn’s always going to the bathroom - because their body is constantly facing an attack from foods that aren’t being broken down properly, and traveling to areas they shouldn’t be.
Supplementation at the end of the day, is just that. A supplement. It shouldn’t become a daily thing, and if that becomes the case, then you need to take a step back to the basics and make sure you have the bigger rocks in place.