Lately, I’ve devoted a lot of time to singing the praises of amino acids. These protein building blocks play a role in just about every single biological process—including the building and maintaining of muscle. They’re the cornerstone of my A-List Diet, and a large reason why protein is (and always has been) a dieter’s best friend.
So why are so many people—especially people over 40—still struggling to shed pounds despite ample intakes of eggs, fish, and lean meat?
Unfortunately, there’s no single “right” answer to that question. And although I cover all of them in my latest book, today I’d like to talk to you about one specific reason why you might not be losing weight.
I’m also happy to report it’s one of the easiest and cheapest problems to fix…and it starts with targeting your digestion.
The key to unlocking all the benefits of protein
Digestive issues become increasingly common past a certain age—and there are several biological reasons for that. But for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to focus on one: Your body’s enzyme production takes a nosedive after the age of 40.¹
Here’s why that matters: Enzymes are the critical molecules responsible for breaking down and separating all the nutrients from the food we eat, so that your body can absorb them. And while some enzymes come from your diet—provided it’s packed with fresh, whole produce and not just processed junk—your pancreas is primarily responsible for generating the rest.
With age, this organ simply can’t keep up. Enzyme output slows down significantly. And it comes with consequences that are especially detrimental to weight loss—most notably, impaired protein digestion.
Complete protein digestion is absolutely essential for your body to gain access to the amino acids required for healthy metabolism. Muscle is composed of metabolically active tissue which aids in fat burning. And without amino acids, your body doesn’t have the raw materials it needs to build and maintain the muscle.
The result? Higher fat storage and lower lean muscle mass—not exactly a recipe for dieting success.
This goes a long way toward explaining why older patients don’t always benefit from high-protein diets. Without enough enzymes to break dietary protein down, it does you no good. And, in fact, it could cause harm—triggering gut problems and inflammation, and making it even harder for you to lose weight.
But obviously, switching to an all-carb diet isn’t the solution either. The fact is, once you hit 40, you need that extra protein more than ever. Which means your focus should be on supporting your body’s ability to digest it properly, instead.
And not just in order to improve amino acid uptake and boost muscle mass. In fact, the perks of protein-digesting enzymes—also called proteases—run a much wider gamut than you might think.
Proteases pack a one-two punch against obesity
Clearly, digestive enzymes are good for your gut. But that’s just the beginning.
Without enzymes, we literally wouldn’t be able to stay alive. As I mentioned earlier, they’re involved in every single process in your body. They affect not only digestion, but also immunity, bones, muscles, joints, and organs. They help you sleep, produce energy… even breathe.
These functions are the prime duty of metabolic enzymes. Metabolic enzymes are proteases that have the unique ability to cruise through your blood stream and eat up foreign proteins—rogue food particles, viruses, bacteria, and pro-inflammatory compounds like fibrin (a protein that causes blood clots).
Undigested proteins are a major source of systemic inflammation. And that’s why metabolic enzymes are such an important ally against inflammation-related conditions, like arthritis, heart disease, and even cancer.²-³
But, as we discussed in this month’s lead article (“The deadly consequences of yo-yo dieting…”), obesity and weight gain are also inflammation-related conditions.
That’s why, as I’m always reminding you, addressing inflammation is such an important component of effective, long-term weight loss. And it’s another big reason why people over the age of 40 (when protease deficiencies tend to set in) are at such a distinct metabolic disadvantage.
Metabolic enzymes come almost entirely from your pancreas, with two notable exceptions: papain and bromelain, which come from food sources (most notably pineapples and papayas). These enzymes function as both digestive and metabolic enzymes, making them perfect allies in your weight loss efforts.
Even better, they’re affordable and widely available in supplement form. A comprehensive enzyme formula will feature both these critical proteases—and I advise taking one with every meal. But for best results, I recommend taking a dose on an empty stomach before bedtime, too.
Enzymes that aren’t tied up with digestion will eventually make their way into your bloodstream. Which can help target any “foreign proteins” that might be contributing to wider systemic inflammation, and sabotaging your quest to get—and stay—slim.
1 Laugier, R., Bernard, J.P., Berthezene, P., Dupuy, P. “Changes in pancreatic exocrine secretion with age: pancreatic exocrine secretion does decrease in the elderly.” (1999). Digestion; 50(3-4):202-11. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1812045
2 Brien, S., Lewith, G., Walker, A., Hicks, S.M., Middleton, D. “Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies.” (2004 December). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2004 Dec; 1(3): 251–257. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from:
3 Rakhimov, M.R. “Anti-inflammatory activity of domestic papain.” (2001 July – August). Eksp Klin Farmakol;64(4):48-9. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11589110