Proper Digestion for Health & Fitness
Can your body’s digestion really have a significant impact on your overall health and fitness? Does the way your body processes the foods you eat on a daily basis really affect your athletic performance and overall physique?
You better believe it does! In fact, digestion plays quite a significant role in how your body utilizes all of the nutrients you consume on a daily basis.
Still not convinced? Well, don’t worry, we’ve got all the info for you ahead as we delve deep down the human gullet and to investigate the role digestion plays in an athlete’s overall looks and performance.
The Importance of Digestion
The digestive system is crucial to the overall function of the body. Basically, it’s where all of the body’s “power” comes from. What you put into your body for digestions is ultimately responsible for the way you look, feel, and perform on a daily basis -- i.e. you are what you eat!
In the day and age of IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), where poptarts, donuts, and ice cream are heralded as cornerstones of flexible dieting, a disconnect between the importance of proper eating and digestion has gone by the wayside. While you can certainly eat those foods while still looking lean, that philosophy of eating has created a disconnect of sorts with how those foods impact your body’s digestion, and overall health.
Yes, everything is moderation is ok, but the notion that you can constantly bombard your GI (gastrointestinal) tract with endless amounts of “franken-foods” and magically remain healthy is VERY misguided. In fact, a lot of the health crises that are escalating around the globe (diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease) could be almost entirely avoided simply by adhering to a more wholesome diet. Each and every “positive” nutritional choice you make is a win for your digestive system (and physique and performance) as well as overall health and wellness, enabling you to live a long and happy life free from illness.
Digestion doesn’t only include your stomach and intestines, it’s actually a rather complex process involving the brain and gut, as well as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and various other muscles. But, one of the most vital components to proper digestion and nutrient absorption is the body’s utilization of various digestive enzymes.
Enzymes are proteins that initiate or “catalyze” chemical reactions in the body -- they bind to a substrate and form an enzyme-substrate complex which then reacts and yields a new product. Digestive enzymes bind to macromolecules, such as proteins, carbs, and fats, to break them down into smaller components and facilitate digestion.
Digestive enzymes can found found throughout the body, from the mouth to the intestines. They can be ingested via consumption of plant and animal foods, or through supplements. But, maintaining sufficient digestive enzymes isn’t easy. Cooking, processing, and manufacturing of foods can degrade the natural digestive enzymes present in raw foods. Additionally, over-the-counter antacids can also deactivate enzymes (proteases in particular) by increasing stomach pH.
Due to the crucial nature of enzymes in the digestive process, and their ability to easily be destroyed, supplementation with digestive enzymes has become increasingly necessary. Studies have shown that supplementing with various digestive enzyme blends improves digestion, nutrient absorption, growth and overall health.
Digestion & Athletes
Given that digestion has been fairly well established to be essential for overall wellness, research has shown that it also is vital to optimal performance. This is especially true in the case of endurance athletes, who frequently experience GI distress due to prolonged training sessions, exposure to environmental toxins, and lengthy competitions.
Clinical trials note that athletes consuming a meal replacement bar (MRP) along with digestive enzymes, comprised of a 160mg blend of amylase, cellulase and hemicellulase, prior to testing had more consistent and higher blood glucose levels than the group of athletes not consuming any digestive enzymes along with their MRP. Plus, the enzyme group was able to sustain 100% VO2max significantly longer than the placebo group, and had lower lactate values too!
Ensuring Proper Digestion
Years of consuming overly processed foods, using antibiotics, and being exposed to unknown quantities of environmental toxins and bacteria have resulted in a severely compromised digestive system. Much of the important gut flora (“good bacteria”) has been diminished by these assorted factors leading to vitamin deficiencies (intestinal flora produces Vitamins B12, K, Riboflavin, etc.) and a number of health concerns, not to mention the decrease in athletic performance discussed above.
Every choice you make ultimately impacts your health, physique and performance. Begin to take control of your body’s digestion by making better nutritional choices (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, etc.) and avoiding excess consumption of hyper-processed, nutritionally void foods. If you’re a hard-training athlete, it may also behoove you to invest in a quality digestive enzyme supplement for some added insurance.
Remember, a happy gut is a healthy gut, which means optimal nutrient absorption, greater utilization of energy, less GI distress, a leaner physique, and superior athletic performance.
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