Improve your digestion

Whether your goal is your performance in the gym, weight loss or weight gain, digestion plays a pivotal role. “How can that be?” you ask. Think about it for a moment. You consume nutrients in your food. Those nutrients give you energy, they help your metabolism run effectively, they help you lift heavier and recover faster. Therefore nutrients are the building blocks on which everything rests. You digest nutrients in your gut, and your body transports them to your muscles for energy, your brain for cognition and your cells for recovery and metabolic performance. If you don’t digest your food well, your body doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs to reach your goals.

Without diving into the complexities of the digestive system, there’s one thing you can change to improve the process immediately. CHANGE THE WAY YOU ARE CHEWING! Chewing is the first step in digestion, and if done poorly, it makes the next steps harder on your body.

The Power of Chewing

Did you know the recommendation is that you chew every bite of food 20 times before you swallow? Have you ever tried to do that? Let me tell you something. After about nine chews, food becomes liquid, and there’s nothing else to bite into. I know 20 chews are hard, but challenge yourself to 10 and see if you can keep chewing.

Why? Glad you asked.

By thoroughly chewing food, we increase the surface area of the food allowing it to be encompassed by saliva. Our saliva is full of digestive enzymes that start the breakdown process. If food is too large to digest once it hits the stomach, your body can’t extract all the valuable nutrients from the food. This also initiates a stress response is in the stomach that is unnecessary and very detrimental. That stress response leads to inflammation which only inhibits digestion further. For some people, that leads to acne, gas, bloating and often weight gain even without overeating. Consider this; maybe you’re not overeating… perhaps you’re merely under-chewing?

You’ve all heard that the hunger response takes time to reach the brain. Remember your mom always said, “You’re not hungry, you just haven’t given the food enough time to reach your bell.”. The hormone that allows us to register a feeling of full is called Leptin. When you chew thoroughly, your stomach has the time to release leptin and signal your brain that you are full. When you feel full, you stop eating sooner and don’t over consume.

Food position makes a difference

Here’s a trick to help you chew more thoroughly. Strategically position your food in your mouth when you are eating. Did you know that the front half of your tongue is voluntary while the back half is involuntary? This means that once food touches the back half of your tongue, your throat has an automatic response to swallow. If you keep the food in the front half of your mouth, you can control when you swallow. If you try the “ten chews rule” make sure to keep your food on the front of your tongue
Whether you’re trying to control your weight, or increase your performance, start by supporting your digestive system. Chew slowly, enjoy your food and get the most out of your macro’s.

Fake it ’til you make it

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t….you’re right. – Henry Ford

I don’t know about you, friends, but this mentality has gotten me REALLY FAR in my life. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a last-minute situation and had to “play the expert” or “act like I know what the eff I’m doing” when I actually don’t! 99% of the time it works out just beautifully. The other 1% of the time I’ve had to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing and pray to Jesus that someone finds pity on me and helps a sister out!

Faking it moments

I have plenty of funny examples to help you understand where I’m going, but I’ll give you two. First, there was the time I showed up to the first day of graduate school, and they handed me my class list (the classes I was going to be teaching). Exercise Physiology, Chemistry Lab, Intro to Sports Pedagogy…..Racquetball. Wait, go back, Racquetball!? How am I supposed to teach AN ENTIRE SEMESTER WORTH OF CURRICULUM about how to play a sport that I’d never touched, watched, understood or fancied? And to a bunch of 19-25-year-old adults none the less? Oh and classes start tomorrow? Ugh. Cool. I got this. Talk about faking it until you make it!

Second, I used this mindset in basketball all of the time! I remember the first time I got to take a game-winning shot. As I dribbled down the court I told myself that I’d never missed a game-winner before. Technically that was true since I hadn’t ever taken a game-winning shot before. Based on that logic I felt confident that I was not going to miss this one. Anyway, I digress…

The Amygdala Theory

The theory states that “things become true because we are acting as if they already are true.” Think about what that means. Think about how many things in your life and your training could be made better without much effort other than changing your mindset. You could go from being a decent athlete to becoming a good athlete, or from sitting on the cusp of being a great athlete to achieving the status of being considered a great one without even adding one more hour in the gym.

The reason the theory works is because of a tiny part of our brain called the Amygdala. It’s a bundle of nerves in our brainstem that filters information for us. The amygdala is the reason you buy a new car, and then all of a sudden feel like everyone has the same car as you. It’s the reason you learn a new word, and then you start hearing it everywhere. It’s the reason you can hear your name in a room of loud people. Your amygdala takes what you focus on and creates a filter for it. It then sifts through and eliminates all other information. Isn’t that cool?

Validating Your Beliefs

In the same way, your amygdala seeks information that validates your beliefs. Meaning, if you believe you’ll hit a lift (within your physical ability of course), you’re much more likely to hit it. Conversely, if all you can focus on is missing a lift, your amygdala forces you to focus on all of the things that can go wrong and you’re most likely, if not guaranteed to miss it.

For instance, have you ever had any of these thoughts –
“This WOD is just not in my wheelhouse.”
“Ugh! Double unders? I’m awful at these”
“Everyone else competing has more experience than me.”
“I just can’t get under my split jerk.”
I could go on and on, but the point is these are all negative thoughts that only serve to make it nearly impossible for you to overcome the task at hand. Like the saying says… Confidence doesn’t guarantee success, but the lack of confidence almost guarantees failure.

Of course, in reality, these things aren’t as easy as I’m making them sound. However, I do believe that you can train yourself to think more positively, visualize what we want and then let our subconscious and conscious minds work together to make it happen! The science is already there to prove the positive mindset theory, and now it’s up to you to change your amygdala filters.