As strength athletes, it’s our job to make sure that recovery from day to day doesn’t fall down to never get back up. That means we need to eat more than the common population. What that doesn’t do is, it doesn’t entitle us to eat crap. Foods that are low in inflammatory response, high in protein or fat, moderate carbohydrates, certainly you know the drill. To give an example, when it comes to simplifying a diet for clients, I always tell them that if you can’t picture it within three stages of it’s natural state (good luck breaking a Pop-Tart down to this), you likely shouldn’t be eating it.
An often overlooked aspect to diet, however, are digestive enzymes. Every living being, human or otherwise, has special enzymes that break foods macromolecules down into smaller substrates for use throughout the body. Some people may be lacking in these enzymes, however. My little brother was a prime example of someone whose digestive enzymes weren’t working properly when he was younger. Food would often sit in his stomach, sometimes for well over a week, without even beginning the initial breakdown. Doctors were stumped, even after pumping his stomach. We were too, until we decided to go to a local health store and buy stomach enzymes. Sure enough, soon after he began taking them, the issue cleared itself up and food digestion never was an issue for him again. Does that sound too simple a solution for an issue that even doctors couldn’t figure out? Perhaps so, but it’s the truth.
Digestive enzymes break down food into the three main categories of food we eat, such as (Drugs):
• Catalyzing the hydrolysis of fats to monoglyceride, glycerol, and free fatty acids.
• Proteins into amino acids and peptides to help build lean muscle tissue.
• Starches into dextrins and short-chain sugars which help aid in energy usage.
Without these enzymes, it’s apparent that the breakdown of food would never occur, especially in the example of my brother. He would often throw up because the food would never settle/begin the digestive process, so nutrients were never fully distributed throughout his body. It was at that time we decided something needed be done. Don’t let that happen to you.
It’s important to note that enzymes control everything we do. They are everywhere in your body: your mouth (saliva), intestines, stomach, and everywhere you can imagine. However, increased lack of care when it comes to diet means that things aren’t always properly digested all the time. Burgers with more preservatives than Marshall’s corpses often are being consumed by the population. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Why would I want to eat that? You don’t.
If your diet is crap, so too will be your body’s reaction to it. Below are a few suggested enzymes (some of which I’ve taken) if you find yourself to have issues breaking down specific foods (Barron).
• Papain. Used to aid in the digestion of protein.
• Amylase. Used to aid in the digestion of starches and carbohydrates.
• Lipase. Used to aid in the digestion of fats.
• Cellulase. Used to break down fiber.
• Lactase. Used to break down dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and/or cheese.
If you have any troubles digesting food, I suggest you take an enzyme with each meal. No harm can come from having food that’s better digested. If anything, your body will likely be a better oiled machine than it already is, and as an athlete you’ll enjoy that benefit.
Article written by Jay Stadtfeld for LiftBigEatBig.com
“Digestive Enzymes.” Complete Information from Drugs.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://www.drugs.com/ppa/digestive-enzymes.html>.
“Digestive Enzymes & Proteolytic Enzymes | Barron Report.” The Importance Of Digestive Enzymes & Proteolytic Enzymes. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://www.jonbarron.org/enzymes/barron-report-digestive-health-proteolytic>.