It's normal to take a healthy gut for granted. But when things go wrong with your digestion it can be a bit troubling. And if you are training for an event/competition or trying to improve on your body composition and performance, bad digestion is a big problem. A lot of people have horrible gut health and digestion. Generally they will feel horrible all the time and just find ways to deal with it because they don’t understand why it is occurring. This is a big mistake because it is setting you up for massive health problems including malnutrition, increased disease risk, and poor body composition and metabolism. The sad truth is without a healthy gut and digestion, you will never be all you can be, body composition, performance and even brain function wise.
Here are some reasons why your gut health and digestion might not be optimal and how to fix it.
1. Too much stress, both physical and mental.
If you’re under a lot of stress, weather physical or mental, you’re going to have digestive issues. Stress increases cortisol and when cortisol is chronically elevated, it drives the release of histamine, a compound that jacks up your immune system. Histamine also increases gastric acid secretion, leading to bloating and the release of other compounds that cause the gut to leak. It also triggers neurotransmitters that stimulate the nervous system and raise your stress response.
Now, exercise that allows adequate recovery is not a problem here, it can actually help reduce cortisol and improve your stress hormone response. But too much training, paired with lack of recovery due to stress can lead to chronically elevated cortisol. You need to make sure that you're recovering from your training sessions with good supplementation, nutrition and adequate sleep.
2. Too much inflammatory gut bacteria.
The bacteria living in your gut plays a massive role on how much fat you store, how you balance levels of glucose in the blood and how you respond to hormones that make you feel hungry or full. In fact, gut bacteria do a lot more than just make you lean or fat. They play a role in absorption of nutrients and compounds into your blood stream. When you have abundant amount of healthy bacteria in your gut, your body is able to effectively absorb nutrients from the food you eat, but if you have more inflammatory “bad” bacteria in your gut, pathogens and toxins are absorbed, but beneficial nutrients may not be.
Common symptoms of poor gut bacteria include all the following:
- Getting sick all the time and finding it difficult recovering from training.
- Constipation and problems with digestion.
- Feeling like you have a foggy brain.
- Difficulty losing body fat or gaining muscle, or worse, gaining body fat.
3. Eating the wrong foods before asking your body to perform at a high level.
There are some foods that you just shouldn’t eat before asking your body to perform at higher levels. This is because when you start to train, digestion will start to slow down as you don’t have as much blood in the gut region and more blood to where their muscles are that you are training. This can lead to cramping, discomfort, or digestive distress.
Here are a few things to avoid around training time.:
- Sports drinks that contain sugar in any form.
- Foods that contain high fructose because they reduce the body’s use of fat for fuel and can cause problems in the gut during training.
- Proteins that contain problematic nutrients such as beans, milk and fatty animal products. whey protein is generally not a problem because high quality sources will be lactose free.
- Beans contain a type of carb that you can't digest but the gut bacteria will. Therefore, when you eat them, you feed the beneficial gut bacteria, but you also may have gut issues in the process.
- Milk contains lactose which is not easily digested by a lot of people due to poor gut heath and intolerance.
- Some animal sources like bacon, cheese, and fatty meats contain large amounts of saturated fat, which take a long time to digest. But, if they suit you go for it.
As you can see gut health plays a major role on your fat loss, brain function, energy levels and overall health. Some simple things you need to keep in mind and can do to help avoid these problems are:
- Chew your food and try digestive enzymes.
- Supplement with glutamine, glutamine will help seal the tight junctions in the gut lining.
- Exercise hard but focus on your recovery.
- Plan your meals around high quality protein, fruits and vegetables.
- Eat plenty of probiotic food and consider supplementing.
- Identify any food intolerance's and avoid them, if it makes you feel bloated and crappy don’t eat it.
- Avoid medication that will damage your gut.
- Get adequate fish oil and zinc
- Get a good sleep.
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