Moldy Just the Way I Like It: Fermented Foods for Bodybuilding
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you probably already know how good probiotics are for digestion. I myself, have been taking a probiotic supplement every morning for a few years now and it does the body good far better than **shudders** a colonic! (More about that horrific experience here.)
Probiotics are a “good” or “helpful” kind of live bacteria (or yeast) that keep our guts healthy. I know we don’t usually associate the word “bacteria” with “healthy.” But our bodies are actually full of bacteria, both good and bad. The “good” ones that I personally supplement with have been shown to help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria (just as the existing “good” bacteria in our bodies already do.)
Probiotics are also “fermented” along with many other foods and supplements I consume. And since my most popular post to date is “Supplements I Could Not Get Jacked on the Beanstalk Without,” I thought it appropriate to create a whole new post specifically about fermented foods and why bodybuilders should be consuming them more than anyone.
So here goes! And side note: I just googled the word “mold” looking for a funny image to insert but damn, that was beyond gross. I’ll spare you guys the visual trauma and include this image of happy, cute bacteria instead.
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
The natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients and break down food to a more digestible form. This, along with the probiotics created during fermentation = improved digestion and better food absorption.
Why Should Bodybuilders Consume Fermented Foods?
Well, look at it this way. As bodybuilders, we eat a TON of protein. Not only is protein difficult for our bodies to break down, but when you’re eating more protein than your body requires, it will simply convert most of those calories to sugar and then fat. And with increased blood sugar levels, you could end up feeding pathogenic bacteria and yeast, aka the “bad” kind of bacteria such as Candida.
Additionally, when you’re eating copious amounts of protein (especially animal-based), digestion slows and your body struggles with the breaking down and assimilating processes. And many of us actually lack sufficient hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes to do so; creating even more digestive upset.
Protein digestion is also very energy intensive. Digestion demands more energy than anything else we do– so any help we can give it through fermented foods should be welcomed with open arms (and guts.)
I’ve always believed that consuming a hefty dose of fermented foods and supplements daily helps my body’s “eliminative processes” to function both quickly and more efficiently, allowing for better protein assimilation and an overall happy gut. 🙂
So Tell Us, Dr. Shorkey: What Should We Consume?
Well kids, here are my top five fave fermented foods (say that five times fast) and supplements that contribute greatly to my vee-gains!
North Coast Naturals Fermented L-Glutamine
My fave glutamine comes from the good people at North Coast Naturals. It’s 100% pure, fermented AND unflavoured. Glutamine is a super important amino acid, crucial for muscle repair and recovery. Depleted glutamine stores make it pretty near impossible to recover from heavy workouts. I always take it before bed. Glutamine also regulates your blood PH, is involved in immune function and antioxidant production so don’t overlook this important muscle building amino!
PVL Essentials BCAAs
It’s no surprise to anyone who follows me that I am a HUGE advocate of branched chain amino acids. I really love the PVL brand because they’re made from fermented beets and contains no weird additives. They may or may not taste like unflavoured, fermented beets though… But you know what? THEY WORK LIKE MAGIC! BCAAs are crucial for preventing muscle loss and giving me additional energy during a cutting phase. I always take them before my cardio and either during or after my weight training sessions. PS if you’re in the United States, Clean Machine also makes fermented, vegan BCAAs from corn. If you order them online, use my discount code sscma and you’ll save 20%.
How could I not include my #1 muscle-building soy product on this list?! With a whopping 18 grams of protein per 3.5 ounce serving, tempeh is a staple in every vegan bodybuilder’s diet. And did you know that soy is especially high in vitamins & nutrients when consumed in a fermented state? That’s because the fermentation process neutralizes phytoestrogens and improves digestibility of the soy beans. Moldy soy for the win!
Ultimate Flora Critical Care Probiotics
I regularly switch up the brand of probiotics I take because I never want my gut to get used to the bacterial strains I give it. But the one I recommend most that will always be part of my probiotic rotation is Ultimate Flora Critical Care by Renew Life. Go figure it’s actually Canada’s top selling probiotic! And rightfully so! This bad boy delivers 50 billion beneficial bacteria from 10 different strains in each vegan capsule. That’s a whole lot of good bacteria! Unfortunately this probiotic ain’t cheap so my wallet is also thankful to switch things up every couple of months.
And there you have it, folks! Love to know of any other vegan fermented foods and supplements I should be jumping on board with. I’ve still yet to try this kombucha craze…
– Sam Shorkey