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.