PROTEIN BONANZA

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Here are five ways to increase the digestibility and absorption of your protein drinks:

• Increase soluble fiber intake. Your digestive system requires about six weeks to fully adapt to the changes fiber will produce. Your first goal is to make sure that your gut morphology (structure) enhances digestive capacity, which improves digestion and absorption of highly motile liquid protein meals. You have to literally "develop" your digestive tract.

It's important to increase your fiber intake gradually in order to avoid potential stomach upset, gas and diarrhea. Concentrate on eating cleaner by including more natural whole foods, particularly veggies and fruits, in your diet. Make sure that you have at least one serving with every meal except your immediate postworkout drink/meal. Commercial fruit juices don't count (few contain any fiber), and, in fact, are not what you should be drinking, except perhaps as part of a postworkout meal.

• Eat five to eight servings of veggies (plus some fruit) every day. If you're not getting at least 25 grams (g) of fiber (including both soluble and insoluble) a day, then add a fiber supplement.

• Got milk? Then drink it! Another solution is to use whole milk instead of nonfat milk, water or juice. The fat content of whole milk, along with the micellar casein in it, slows motility, which gives your GI tract more time to digest and absorb the protein.

• Rice is nice. Another solution, which is one of our favorites, is to simply eat some steamed rice — one cup or so — with your protein shake. This method is especially effective when consuming large amounts of hydrolyzed whey protein or whey concentrate. Manufacturers of protein powders and ready-to-drink products are increasingly adding rice oligodextrins to their formulas in order to impart increased protein digestibility.

• Timing is key. Whey protein is perhaps the best supplement to consume immediately after training — better than meat or casein. Why? Because whey protein is digested and absorbed quickly, and your body's ability to efficiently utilize a concentrated flux of amino acids is greatest following training. Add to this the high branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content of whey protein and the fact that BCAAs are best repleted following exercise rather than during it, and you have the ideal postworkout protein.

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