You may be doing great with your nutrition. Sticking mostly to whole, unprocessed foods. Eating multiple servings of fruits and vegetables. Getting an ample amount of high quality protein. Consuming healthy fats and starches as needed. However, you still may find that you are not receiving the benefits of these good food choices.
One of the possible reasons for your lack of progress may be your digestion. Digestion is extremely important! It is not a super sexy topic, which is why I believe most people avoid it. However, you should know that it is not about the foods you eat, but it is about the nutrients that you absorb from those foods. And with poor digestion you may not be assimilating those beneficial nutrients from the foods your are consuming. Therefore, a lot of your concerted effort may be going to waste – literally.
So today I want to talk a little bit about ways to improve your digestion and how to determine if you may have problems with it.
One of the best ways to determine if your digestion is working optimally is paying attention to how you feel after meals and your bowel movements and frequency. You should not experience significant bloating and/or gas after a meal. Your energy levels should also remain fairly constant with no significant dips or feelings of sluggishness.
In regards to your bowel movements, your stool should be semi-hard and come out easily with no food particles or fragments. Frequency should be anywhere from 1-4 times a day depending on how much food you are consuming. I would say most people should be going at least twice a day.
So what can you do if you do not feel that your digestion is up to par?
Unfortunately, this is a difficult answer as there are many reasons why one could have poor digestion. However, I believe it is important for you to experiment and research possible solutions because, as I mentioned above, digestion is super important for achieving your health and fitness goal(s).
Here are some possible steps to improve your digestion:
-Just start paying attention to it. Take note of how you feel after a meal, as well as the quality and frequency of your bowel movements. How do these measures correlate with what you have eaten previously and your stress levels.
-Eat more slowly. Chew thoroughly.
-Try to relax during your feedings. Do not rush.
-Avoid foods that consistently make you feel bad. Try eliminating them for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference.
-Experiment with meal frequency and size. Some people do really well with several smaller feedings throughout the day, while others enjoy bigger, less frequent meals. Meal frequency matters very little when it comes to body composition so choose which fits your lifestyle and keeps your gut happy.
-Get more movement throughout the day. This can help improve gut motility.
-Drink less fluid with your meals. Too much liquid at a meal can cause problems for some.
-Experiment with your fiber intake. Some people need more fiber in their diet to see regular bowel movements, while others need less. I personally cannot consume a lot of fibrous foods or it messes up my digestion.
-Consider adding a magnesium supplement. Most people are deficient in magnesium and it can help improve bowel movements. I would start with 200-400mg before bed, or with your last feeding. If your stool becomes soft slowly decrease the amount.
I hope this information helps. Digestion is so important, but very few people pay attention to how theirs is functioning. It is a lot of experimenting to find what works best for you, but the benefits are worth it.
Have a good rest of your week!