By now we know that digestive enzymes are important for the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, but what are they exactly and how do they perform their vital functions?
The optimal digestion of proteins and carbohydrates is an often-underestimated factor concerning sports performance and the building and strengthening of muscle tissue.
However, with science proving the importance of digestive enzymes on the uptake and assimilation of performance nutrients - proteins and carbohydrates primarily - athletes, including bodybuilders, are now supplementing with an array of products designed to improve the breakdown and absorption of key food groups.
Being critical for the assimilation of nutrients, digestive enzymes - designed to govern various physiological and chemical processes through working on, and maximizing, specific nutrients - are produced in our bodies naturally, and - as the main way we can obtain them, or so it is often thought - found in the foods we eat.
Athletes Are Now Supplementing With An Array Of Products Designed
To Improve The Breakdown And Absorption Of Key Food Groups.
Why is it then that so many people experience various digestive difficulties, and cannot properly absorb their food despite their best efforts?
Genetic differences (among those people with lactose and gluten intolerance, for example) can prevent some people from properly absorbing certain nutrients, while the increasingly poor quality of the foods we eat (often resulting from, and not limited to, contaminated soil, spoilage and the use of nutritionally inert substances to manufacture foods) and the cooking methods used to prepare some of these foods (which can effectively destroy the enzymes designed to digest them) can render certain types lacking in important enzymes.
For example, lean meat - a rich source of dietary protein and a staple for hard training bodybuilders - can be overcooked to where its natural enzymes are virtually destroyed (raw food advocates feel raw meat is the optimal way in which to ensure complete digestion of it).
By adding papain, available in supplemental form and found in pineapple, the protein contained in meat fibers can be better assimilated. In fact, certain fresh fruits and vegetables can be an excellent way to boost digestive enzyme levels to aid muscle growth and performance.
However, even this approach can be flawed in that availability, nutritional quality, optimal quantity of nutrients delivered to the system and personal preference can impede any potential benefits to be derived.
Further, all processed and chemical-laden foods are completely devoid of digestive enzymes and the raw, "healthy" foods we eat often do not contain enough to warrant using them as the primary way to obtain these important facilitators of digestion.
And if all of this wasn't worrying enough for those seeking optimal digestion and excellent health, the stomach acids we naturally produce to break down foods can actually inactivate the enzymes these very foods require for proper digestion (1).
It is for these reasons, and a greater awareness among athletes of the importance of digestive enzymes, that the popularity of these substances' supplemental form has, in recent times, increased.