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Aiding Digestion

A topic I wanted to start discussing a bit that has been on my mind is proper and adequate Digestion. Something that is very overlooked in the sport of bodybuilding or in general for any gym goer is listening to their body (training wise) and also nutrition wise. A lot of people grow into adult hood and soon find out some bad news about certain foods that they cannot eat (intolerances). Some people never have dairy because they are lactose intolerant, and some people will learn over time that certain foods make them bloat and experience stomach distention and discomfort. Personally, I have had this happen multiple times, and have seen it in various other individuals from posting on online message boards and following others in their success to the stage or through contest prep. Many people that like to seldom themselves to “Clean” foods; eating lots of oats, protein shakes, rice, cottage cheese, milk, fish etc may soon learn that sometimes one of those sources just does not settle well, or they will grow a food intolerance towards one of those over time from pounding them day in and day out. I learned over time that oatmeal settles way too heavy, and if I were to have a hot cereal I would invest in Cream of Rice/Wheat which does not bloat my stomach. Fish blows up my stomach. I can see it stretch in a matter of seconds and settle very heavy, the same can be said for mushrooms. Because of this I had to cut them out totally or else I will feel the wrath of these things in a matter of minutes. If I were to consume them I notice my performance, endurance, and overall digestion just suffers to a drastic extent.

Because of these problems or intolerances, the best thing to do is go see a doctor, get some scopes, maybe liquid chalk to drink, or proton inhibitors to kill stomach acid. In most cases there is a major acid reflux causing these reactions in the body. The first thing before seeking help if you are struggling and experiencing digestion problems is to try and cut one source out at a time and see how it treats you. Say for instance, dairy may be negatively affecting your digestion or how you feel, so toss it out the window for one week and see how your body feels hitting your calories without it, and then reintroduce it changing no other variables and see how things treat you. Over time I started to notice that these list of foods were the main culprits for digestion for many individuals:

  • Oatmeal

  • Peanut Butter

  • Fish

  • Any forms of Lactose (Milk, Yogurts, Cottage Cheese)

  • Cheaper forms of protein powders (Artificial Sweeteners)

  • Breads/Wheat/Grains

  • Vegetable, Peanut, or Canola Oils

  • Very rarely I have seen some individuals who just cannot stomach Eggs

Even if you are trying to gain some size and your caloric intake overall is large, trying to replace certain food choices (Say eggs for more chicken or beef) may be what you need to do to help get the calories in, keep it light on your stomach, and aid in proper digestion without your stomach feeling awful.

What are some things individuals can do to help combat stomach problems or detox their body?

I would suggest forms of Intermittent Fasting. While some people absolutely hate the idea of not eating for an extended period of time, many people find success with it due to their lifestyle. For people who work 9-5 jobs and may not eat until lunch (noon), then eat a small pre-workout or snack before leaving (say 3-4 p.m.) and come home and cook a big dinner (7-8 PM) or a post-workout meal that fits right into Martin Berkhan’s Leangains principle. Doing so will allow your stomach to settle from a long overnight fast. Some people have a large appetite and find that this suits them well, better than packing loads of Tupperware on a daily basis and carrying it around with them.

Another common problem for digestion is fiber intake. Many people just simply eat too much which makes digestion backfire on the individual. With excessive fiber intake, foods will settle much heavier on the stomach. Try eating 50g of carbs from white rice, and 50g of carbs from oatmeal. The fiber from the oatmeal will likely be a lot harder on your system compared to rice which may run right through the individual due to a lack of fiber. While this may not be the case for some individuals, it will really be the case for most. A few other sources that may be very light on the stomach and may really aid digestion or micronutrients in general are fruits. Fruits, especially higher in carbs such as blueberries (Which are loaded with anti-oxidants) and Banana’s (Great for Potassium and Vitamin K), Bagels (if you cannot tolerate wheat or gluten avoid at all costs), and Honey (good anti-oxidants and very calorically dense) are other options to consider.

What really may surprise you is that probiotics in foods (Yogurt / Sauerkraut) can help friendly gut bacteria optimize health and digestion and also the absorption of micronutrients when ingested in the small intestine. If tolerable by the individual, these should be included to become staples for overall aids in digestion. Even if the individual cannot take these foods or digest them with ease this is when supplementation does come into play. I will always suggest proper nutrition and diet over pills or powders, but I have found from personal experience that digestive enzymes (with meals) and probiotics (at the beginning or end of the day) have increased my digestion and overall gut health to another level. I am a major supporter of Gut Health (use discount code mah10 for 10% off), which is made by EvoMuse, and I really enjoy Enzymes coming from a respectable company (such as NOW). While these are not very expensive products, they can make a huge difference, especially for someone who may have an intolerance.

Overall, digestion is one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to longevity and good health. People will eat foods that are scripted on a sheet of paper by a personal trainer, or they will simply just stick to foods because they consider them “Clean” and it's easier for them to eat that same meal plan day in and day out. Variety should be the #1 key in anyone’s diet if possible, in my opinion. Limiting yourself to certain foods also negates a lot of micronutrients since you are only eating few food sources. Strive for multiple food sources in a given day, try to utilize digestive enzymes and probiotics if you do build up a tolerance to certain foods or are born with a food intolerance to try and optimize and see what settles best on your stomach. These tips will help you put forth your best performance in and out of the gym.

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