The time necessary for digestion seems to get lost in the ever-abundant fitness information out there. Allow me to refresh the ole noggin about the digestive system in a way that only I can. You’ll laugh, perhaps cry, and may even become angry with me. Nonetheless, you’ll learn ya a thing or two.
“Bro, you look so catabolic right now… did you get your protein shake down within the thirty minute anabolic window?”
“No.” (hangs head with shame)
“You didn’t?! So much for those gainz man…”
(shakes his head and takes another bite of bland chicken)
If this article does it’s job, it will serve to eliminate any future conversations similar to the one above. I’ve got my work cut out for me but I’d rather hang my hat on the failed attempts of daring greatly than on the small, mediocre wins.
THESIS: This article aims to clear up the speed of digestion and may just have you rethink your meal frequency habit…
Digestion begins even before you take your first bite. But for our purposes, we’ll begin with the mouth (ironically not pictured above). Mastication, the scientific term for chewing, begins the physiological process of digestion and absorption of nutrients.
The whole reason for mastication is to break down the food into smaller pieces so that the acids in the stomach can further break down the food and digest/absorb the smallest forms of the macronutrients ingested (i.e. amino acids, lipids, and sugars).
Did You Know?? Digestion/absorption can be affected by how well you chew your food??
It’s true. The rate of digestion is related to how well one chews their food, especially from protein sources. Those who eat fast typically don’t chew their food too extensively (I fall into this category). If you have digestive issues, focusing on chewing more thoroughly is the place to start. It’s wicked cheap too, dawg.
OR, if you opt for the majority of your diet to be liquid nutrition (like ya boy writing this article), such as protein shakes, you can take some stress off of the digestive systems and make digestion a bit easier. Increased surface area equals greater absorption rates. Math terms 🙂
While we’re on the subject of chewing… I would like to ask a single question… This questions stems from a relentless effort to find every way imaginable to go against the status quo. I’m only partly being sarcastic here.
Is it good/healthy** for your body to have the digestive system idling all day?
I would argue that it’s not the best idea. Imagine the MPG your car would get if you decided to just leave it running all day… no bueno! This is one of the many reasons I prefer a lower meal frequency eating pattern and have avoided chewing gum for almost two years.
This is all mere speculation. I’ve heard that there is some research out there stating how chewing gum can increase your mental awareness and clarity. Personally, I’d rather use cocaine* and other stimulants for that and keep the digestive system at bay and have the body focus on metabolizing body fat to keep me lean and mean, in 2017… (couldn’t help it).
[*this is what I call a ‘test-liner:’ a line thrown in casually to see if people actually read the article… if you’d like leave a comment below or on the social platform I’ve shared this on and say “cocaine’s a hell of a drug.” That ought to be fun!]
Okay, back to the GI stuff…
Once you’ve swallowed your poorly chewed food, the food is pushed down the esophagus, finally reaching the stomach.
Now, it’s widely accepted that it takes food six to eight hours to enter and leave the stomach and small intestine. But, it’s not done there. From there, it moves into the large intestine for further absorption.
Does that not BEG the question:
“why on earth would it be necessary to eat every 2 hours?!”
I argue that it does.
But, of course, there’s other variables at play. The macronutrient make up of the meal plays a huge role. If the meal you consume consists of solely carbohydrates, the digestive/absorption process won’t take quite as long.
[But, if you’re diet consists of mostly carbohydrates, you’re probably an asshole and think that cardio is the best way to lose weight and that protein makes you fat… I’ll leave this alone for now but could be some motivation for an article down the road, assuming that people don’t completely hate me for defending the truth and informing people that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (although according to my anatomy professor in college, there is only one way to skin a cat… but, I digress)]
The majority of the absorption of nutrients take place in the small intestine, so this is a super important organ to have! The large intestine and colon finish the job and what’s not needed is excreted through your poop!
HAHA… poop, what a funny word, no?! Oh come on, lighten up… you know you’ve sent one of those poop emoji’s to your friends! Oh wait, you’re not taking offense to the carbohydrate eating asshole thing, are ya?
Well, it is true. You need protein bro! One does not live on carbs alone… and one does not live very long at all doing this either, so please, stop it. Be more productive in the gym and Dead Lift…
…back to protein…
Large amounts of protein will take longer to digest. Your body will be able to handle a large amount of protein at one time but the rate of digestion would be slowed. The cost of digesting protein is high but a higher protein intake doesn’t yield a higher net loss. You’ll still lose approximately 25% of ingested protein through the Thermogenic Effect of Food.
A mixed meal (one containing carbs, proteins, and fats) will take a significant amount of time for digestion/absorption to be completed. Fats slow down the rate of digestion greater than carbs.
According to Lyle McDonald, Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) with a 90% protein content (by weight) would digest as quickly as 8-10g per hour. WPI is widely accepted as the fastest digesting/absorbing protein source around.
So, your 40g WPI post workout shake isn’t hitting your muscles in that 30 minute anabolic window bro. WTF?!?!
Please, don’t misconstrue this as new information. I wrote about it years ago. Read it here. And, I’m not even the first to do so. Martin Berkhan, Tim Ferriss, and several others have discussed this in various forms.
I wish not to beat a dead horse here. I think you get the idea that digestion takes a bit longer than what the fitness community (in general) likes to acknowledge.
Please, don’t take anything I say personally. I just have a passion for telling people the truth. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what to do with it. Am I saying that eating 6 meals a day doesn’t work? Absolutely not. All I want to do is get you to ask the question, is it necessary?
Stay #Relentless My Friends!!
Any questions, comments, concerns? Voice them below! I’d love to chat with you and get your thoughts.