There is no point in eating nutritious food if your food can't absorb the nutrients with maximum efficiency. Discover why bioavailability is so critical to bodybuilders, and how to get the best results.
The Road to Lean Mass Gains
The road to lean mass gains is not without its bumps and obstacles. It takes dedication and consistency that lasts over a period of years.
Anyone trying to increase their lean mass knows that the proper diet and ergogenic aids can be beneficial tools that can speed up the rate at which lean mass is acquired, but this only occurs if the body is truly able to use the nutrients in the food or the supplements consumed. This article will focus on bioavailability and its importance to bodybuilders.
What is Bioavailability?
Bioavailability is the amount of nutrients and speed at which nutrients can be absorbed by the body after eating food or taking a dietary supplement. Any food or supplement ingested by the body goes through a process which breaks the food down into vitamins, minerals, and amino acids (depending on the type of food consumed).
Food with a high bioavailability will allow the body to use all, or most, of the nutrients, contained in that food. For instance, fruit like strawberries and pineapples are rich in vitamin C.
When these fruits are eaten, the body is able to use all of the vitamin C contained in the fruit without losing any of this nutrient. Conversely, foods or supplements with low bioavailability, when ingested, will get broken down by the body, but most of the nutrients will be lost through the digestion process or excreted by the body.
Importance of Bioavailability to Bodybuilders
Protein is the most important macronutrient for bodybuilders. The amino acids contained in the protein you consume helps you build, maintain, and repair muscle tissue in the body.
If a bodybuilder consumes foods that contain protein but also have a low bioavailability of the macronutrient, the bodybuilding athlete will have an extremely difficult time increasing lean mass.
The same holds true for carbohydrates, fats, and any dietary supplements consumed. Carbohydrates and fats are needed to fuel your workout. Supplements aren’t needed but they can be valuable (if they have a high level of bioavailability) as a way to supply the body with extra amino acids or as a way to fuel workouts.
Bioavailability of Different Food
Bodybuilders are most concerned with the bioavailability of protein. A bodybuilding athlete will want to know which food or supplement will provide the most amino acids to help gain the maximum amount of lean mass.
There are certain whole foods which have a high level of bioavailability. These foods include poultry, beef, fish, and milk. All of these foods are listed on the bioavailability index and the percent of bioavailability increases slightly for each food.
On the bioavailability index poultry has the lowest percentage of bioavailability (79%) and milk has the highest percentage of bioavailability (91%). Beef and fish are rated at 80% and 83% respectively.
For you, as a bodybuilder, this is great news. You know that you will be getting nearly all the protein that is contained in these whole foods. But, if you want a form of protein that has over 100% bioavailability, you will have to take a look at whey protein.
By supplementing your diet with whey concentrate, you will have a source of protein that is 104% bioavailable. This means that when you have a protein drink made from whey concentrate, all the amino acids contained therein will be used by your body.
That guarantees that your body will have the nutrients it needs to help build, maintain, and repair muscle tissue.
Even though high protein foods are important, it is critical to include other whole foods with a high bioavailability into your diet. Leafy, green vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals and these nutrients are most available when eaten raw.
Cooking these foods will reduce the amount of nutrients available to the body, but will not eliminate them completely. Fruit also contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and most of those nutrients will be available for the body to use.
Bioavailability of Supplements
Supplements can help you immensely with your goal of gaining lean mass if they have a high bioavailability. As mentioned above, whey protein supplements have a higher bioavailability than whole foods that are high in protein and, therefore, should be included in your diet.
When it comes to taking other supplements like multivitamins or other ergogenic aids, some research has to be done regarding the bioavailability of the supplement.
One thing to look out for when taking multivitamins is a notation that states the supplement meets certain criteria established by the board of pharmacists in your country.
In the United States, the label USP indicates that a supplement has undergone certain tests and is approved by the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Every country will have their own board of pharmacists that will indicate that the supplement has passed certain tests.
In the absence of this notation, you can tell if a supplement actually works by reading reviews on the supplement or by asking friends and personal trainers if they have taken it and if it worked for them. Some supplements will have a monstrously-low bioavailability and should not be taken while others will be a great addition to your diet.
A good rule of thumb to know if any supplement is working is how you feel. If you feel a positive difference after taking the supplement for a period of up to 30 days, it is probably getting the job done.
Bioavailability Summed Up
The food you eat or the supplements you take will be useless if they do not have a high bioavailability. A high bioavailability means your body will get the nutrients that it can use to help you gain more muscle, have more energy, and live healthier. If you are looking for good sources of protein you need to include whey protein, beef, fish, and poultry into your diet.
If you want to use supplements, just make sure to check the label to see if it is endorsed by either a governing pharmacological entity in your country or if it has good reviews. The road to lean mass gains will be a smooth one if you choose foods and supplements with a high bioavailability.