The Missing Link in Your Dietary and Training Schedule
So you have decided to ramp up your training, we all know the basics; eat more protein, lift heavier weights increase your cardio training and modify your macro nutrient intake. Then there are the details like consuming fish oil to reduce inflammation and muscle fatigue, BCAAs for muscle synthesis, joint support for better mobility and reduction of pain etc. etc. But what if I was to tell you one of the most important things you could take for a successful training plan is missing from almost every gym bag in America? Is it possible with all the products and equipment on the market we could still be missing something? The answer is ….yes and it is so simple you’re going to kick yourself.
We often times overcomplicate things—talking about the exact angles that your hips, knees and ankles need to be in for a squat or counting calories down to the single digit and adjusting micronutrients to the mmol (millimol is a unit of measure in science). These things are necessary in a lab setting but in really life it just makes it hard and frustrating. Then we have the latest and greatest sports supplements that promise results but all you see is your bank account dwindling. This article is for those who want to get the most from their training and dietary regimen while keeping is simple.
Is it as simple as adding protein?
One of the first things we do during a new exercise regimen is increase the protein! By far the most popular is the almighty protein shake. Now buyers beware, these can contain nasty flavorings (see our article on artificial sweeteners) and sweeteners or have really poor quality protein sources such as whey from poorly fed and treated animals. Or maybe you increased your protein with a larger amount of chicken breasts. You know the freakishly large tan pieces of meat whose size rivals your flexed quad muscle. Either way the human body needs to break down these protein sources into amino acids. You see, dietary protein is what we call an essential polypeptide and used for a variety of different process such as muscle synthesis and a proper immune response. These polypeptides need to be broken down in the gastrointestinal tract into amino acids that can be absorbed into your system and reassembled into different proteins depending on the bodies demand. So if we are demanding more muscle growth then we need more protein, simple right? Not so much. To get from a polypeptide to usable amino acids there are multiple steps involved.
Protein digestion begins in the stomach where a concert of enzymes and hormones controls the movement of the stomach and the foodstuff that it breaks down. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) and proteolytic enzymes are responsible for protein digestion. This is a critical process that not only allows the “extraction” of essential amino acids but also prevents these larger proteins to move down the GI tract and become inflammatory.
Essential amino acids
One recent study looked at 52 frail older women that were able to perform exercise. They had them exercise twice a week for 90 minutes. One group was given digestive enzymes three times per day. At the conclusion of the study they found that those who exercised and took the digestive enzyme preparation had improvement across all physical functions. The researchers concluded that an exercise regimen without digestive enzyme intervention may worsen the nutritional status in frail older women.
Now clearly we are not all 80-something year old women but you can see from this one paper that a seemingly “unrelated” sports supplement, digestive enzymes, can improve your physical performance. This does hold true in younger subject as we see less gastrointestinal discomfort and faster recovery in those who digestive enzyme preparations.
We recommend a combination of protein powders, amino acid blends and whole food protein to satisfy the higher demand of the elite athlete. This combination will expose your system to a variety of forms of protein, some of which may respond better in one person versus another. Now what is the idea amount of protein intake? Research is all over the board but on average you are looking at .75 to 2.0 times your body weight in pounds.
Example: 200lb person would want to consume 150g to 400g of protein per day
As stated previously, we do not need to over complicate things. If we look at the foundational processes of the human body we can clearly identify, define and treat deficiencies. If you have any of these gastrointestinal symptoms correlated to your increase in protein, then you may be a candidate for digestive enzymes:
- Stomach cramps
Keep it simple. Train hard, add some good quality protein and/or an amino acid blend and make sure your overall nutrition is on point. Don’t be surprised if you add digestive enzymes into your routine and your recovery and performance improve from this “non-performance enhancing” supplement.
- Ishikawa-Takata et. al. Exercise without digestive enzyme supplementation worsens nutritional status of frail older women. Journal of American Geriatrics Society
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