Digestion is a huge but often forgotten part of weight loss and muscle gain!
This is a topic I am fairly well experienced in, due to my own digestive issues. My family has a history of having a “sensitive stomach”. It clearly must be hereditary. Having an upset stomach is not fun. Especially when eating for a “purpose”, e.g. eating to gain muscle, or dieting down to lose fat. So, combating and preventing digestive issues is something I have had to do for a long time now.
Everyone acknowledges the importance of diet and exercise whether the goal is to gain muscle, lose fat, or a bit of both. And rightly so!
With the topic of “diet” in particular, there are so many different views and strategies. Whether you go for low carb or high carb. Low fat, high fat. More protein or less protein. Frequently grazing throughout the day, or Intermittent Fasting. ALL OF THESE DIETS WORK.
There are people out there who have had success in achieving their physique goals using just about any one of the dieting strategies out there.
However, despite the truth that most diets can work – let me assure you that NONE of these diets will work, if your body cannot digest the food you eat.
Why is digestion important?
Your body must be able to absorb the nutrients from the food you consume. It’s as simple as that. Your calorie target and macronutrient breakdown can be absolutely perfect to get you losing fat or building muscle. But if your body is unable to digest your food and utilise these nutrients, then you are wasting your time!
There is a long list of “irritable bowel” diseases. Things like “leaky gut syndrome”, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease are no fun for anyone! There are also various food allergies and intolerances too.
“How do I know if my body is absorbing the food I eat?” you might ask. Well the obvious answer is whether or not you experience any gastric issues after eating.
- Do you feel bloated?
- Suffer stomach distention?
- Have bad wind?
- Feel like vomiting – or actually vomit?
- Frequently get diarrhoea?
- Feel food “repeating” on you?
What causes digestive issues?
You may have an intolerance or allergy to certain foods without knowing it. Or you may just have a bad diet!
One interesting cause of digestive issues can be stress. This can be physical stress brought on from exhaustion, or overreaching or overtraining. Ask yourself if you’ve been training hard for a long time without a break or “deload”?
But stress can of course also be mental. If you are going through a stressful period in your life due to factors at work, at home, due to having kids, due to relationship issues etc., then it is no surprise really if you are now suffering digestive issues too. And the worst thing is that during times in life when stress levels are high, the last thing you need is the added stress of a bad stomach!
Fight or flight!
Think back to the “fight of flight” response. When you are under threat, your body reacts the same way. It makes no differentiation as to whether it is a physical threat, like being attacked by a predator, or you constantly killing it in the gym. Or whether it is a “mental” threat, like being late for work again, or having to deal with another night of your baby awake crying!
Digestion slows down during the “fight or flight” response, heart rate quickens, blood is directed away from your digestive system to your muscles, and toxic metabolites are produced.
A bad diet
This one is easier to fix! If you are eating a lot of unnatural processed food, that has a lot of added sugar and added hydrogenated fat (bad fat), then it is no surprise to me if you suffer digestive issues! Sugar and hydrogenated fats can both cause inflammation to your gastrointestinal tract. Combine this with a diet low in fibre, and you are bound to have problems! Fibre would help “push” the food through your GI tract to clear your system and prevent “clogging” and prevent the build up of gas.
A lack of “good” bacteria
You may remember from science class at school that there are bacteria that “live” in your gut to assist with the break down of food. If you have an imbalance of this bacteria, i.e. not enough “good bacteria”, you may very well experience issues.
- Try supplementing with probiotics, to help restore gut bacteria levels. Personally, I use this one, but that’s not to say other brands aren’t good too (affiliate link):
I take this before dinner.
- Try adding “prebiotics” to your diet. These are used to “feed” good bacteria in your stomach. They are found in things like honey, leek, onions, garlic, and bananas.
- Try supplementing with alpha lipoic acid (ALA). I have spoken about ALA before HERE. It is an antioxidant that also can help with gut health. I use this one (affiliate link):
- Try having more fermented foods in your diet, like sauerkraut, cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt, and kimchi. This is good for flora levels.
- Eat more fruit and veg! I have spoken before about the benefits of fibre HERE. Fibre prevents “clogging” and prevents the build up of gas in your digestive system.
- Try supplementing with digestive enzymes. Otherwise, include fresh pineapple and papaya in your diet.
- Cut out junk food!
- Try also adding cinnamon to your food, and also apple cider vinegar. These seem to help me prevent digestive issues.
- Supplement with Activated Charcoal. This is a source of insoluble fibre which helps “clear the pipe works”! There are various brands that make these, like this one (affiliate link):
Give it a go! Put my recommendations into practice and your digestive system will thank you for it! If this doesn’t help, then you may have a food intolerance or allergy that you are unware of. In which case it might be worth going to your doctor to get tested. You could always try and find the culprit yourself, of course, by eliminating one food at a time and then assessing for any improvements.
Either way, resolve your digestive issues, start allowing your body to truly absorb the nutrients you are feeding it, and the results will come!