You eat it, you drink it... but will you build muscle from it?

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Our next series of articles will be about protein products. More precisely, about the ingredients that a protein powder should have, what makes a protein powder really good in terms of quality, and why we describe certain products as “premium protein powder”. Let’s start with substances that aid digestion.

You eat it, you drink it... but will you build muscle from it?

Drinking a protein shake is the simplest way to add that extra amount of protein to your diet. Take a spoonful of protein powder, mix it with water, give it a few shakes, and your protein shake is ready! You check the label for the amount of protein and start calculating.

But can you actually count all of the protein that you think you have consumed?

Once you finished gulping down your shake, there is one thing you can be sure of: you emptied the shaker. But – unfortunately – this doesn’t mean that the protein will also be absorbed! By choosing the right protein type, you can significantly boost absorption, so make sure that you go for products that contain whey proteins with a high biological value – you can read more about this later. However, even this won’t do by itself.

Microscopic helpers

The way our digestive system works is affected by the health of our gut flora. The gut flora is made up of millions of tiny bacteria that have a role in breaking down nutrients.

These bacteria – probiotics – can be consumed in the form of supplements as well, but healthy people who have a healthy diet and take some precautions have no reason to worry about this.

The health of the gut flora can be improved with prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that stimulate the growth and development of probiotic bacteria. These nutrients are not affected by the digestive enzymes found in the upper part of the intestine, so they can freely move on to the large intestine where they facilitate the growth of probiotics. Such prebiotics include inulin, Galacto-oligosaccharide and lactose.

As for the beneficial effects of prebiotics, they:

  • boost the growth of probiotics
  • prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to the intestinal wall
  • have a positive effect on the proportions of useful and harmful bacteria
  • enhance the absorption of some minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium)

Prebiotics are useful for anyone with a digestive issue or infection, but those who regularly consume larger amounts of nutrients – for example, a lot of proteins – should continuously take prebiotics. A protein powder that already contains prebiotics will solve two problems at once.

Digestive enzymes

All of us have plenty of digestive enzymes in our system. Or, at least, all of us who consume nutrients in a normal dosage. But put your hand to your heart: your protein consumption is far from normal, right?

Our daily intake is double that of the recommended dosage – disregarding the issue of why the recommended dosage is so small for now – and this takes a toll on the digestive system for some of us.

Although malodorous gases might be the only thing that you notice, this is a sign nonetheless – and a threat to your surroundings. That’s when extra digestive enzymes come in handy.

One of the most well-known digestive enzymes is bromelain. Bromelain – which is an enzyme extracted from pineapple – is an effective digestive aid, and also a safe and natural anti-inflammatory that can be used in case of deep muscle injuries or bruising. Its digestion-aiding properties seem to be especially useful for those who consume a lot of protein.

This natural enzyme works together with our own digestive system to break down nutrients. When you consume extra amounts of protein, your digestive system is forced to work harder – much harder than in the case of carbohydrates – to make the substance absorbable. So if you add bromelain to a protein-rich diet – or even a protein shake – you are getting more useful amino acids into your system.

And what you wouldn’t expect...

There is a substance that is primarily known as a sweetener, but few people know that it also has digestion aiding qualities. It’s called xylitol. Apart from being a healthier alternative to sugar, xylitol has a beneficial effect on digestion, as it boosts metabolism. As a result, it facilitates the elimination of waste products. It’s only an added bonus that it also helps the absorption of vitamin B and enhances collagen production. So, although xylitol is not an indispensable substance, it can be a useful tool when it comes to digesting an extra quantity of nutrients.

The best idea is to go for a product that contains some of these substances – or, in the case of professional products, all of them.

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