Fiber It Up!

By Eric Martinez

Aug. 16. 2011-

Let’s talk some fiber; many get confused when it comes to fiber. What is dietary fiber exactly? How much do I need to have each day? Why do I get constipated when having fiber? Why is fiber important? These are just some of the basic questions we tend to get asked about fiber. So here we go ladies and gentlemen, let’s fiber it up!

What is Dietary fiber? Fiber is a complex carbohydrate made up of non-starch polysaccharides, resistant starches, and cellulose. Fiber tends to sit longer in your GI (Gastrointestinal) which pulls fluids into the area. That’s normally a good thing because it makes you feel fuller. A carbohydrate with less fiber will be digested more rapidly and not pull water in your GI like something heavier would with a lot of fiber.  When you think fiber, think whole grains, veggies, fruits, bran, and beans. There are essentially two types of fibers, each is unique and has specific beneficial qualities. The first one is Soluble Fiber; this type is very resistant to breakdown by the digestive enzymes in your mouth, stomach, and small intestine. Some key benefits to soluble fiber are: 1) stabilizes blood sugar, which slows down transit time (the time it takes for food to enter and leave the body) and encourages a more gradual breakdown of food. 2) Lowers LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) 3) Increased defense against cancer. Fiber can bind with cancer-producing compounds and remove them from the body.

The second type of fiber is Insoluble, this type of fiber generally doesn’t get digested anywhere. It’s essentially lignin, cellulose, or hemicelluloses, and typically you will find it in wheat or veggies. Its job is to carry food and water through the digestive system. Some key benefits are: 1) Less constipation, since insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool, it aids in elimination, resulting in less constipation. 2) Keeps the toxins out- insoluble fiber is very good at keeping you cleaned out by binding toxins and hormones that try and get into your blood and tissues. Overall, both soluble and insoluble fiber, are very beneficial and everyone must get them in their diet. Especially the more fibrous ones that I mentioned earlier, choosing the right type of fiber can go a long way and there have been many proven studies on its significance.

Fiber can be somewhat tricky. Fiber won’t so much impair nutrient uptake like protein/fat/carbs, but it will inhibit absorption of some vitamins and minerals if it’s too high and will definitely lower cholesterol, which may be the link to reduced testosterone. Dietary fiber is important for the following reasons: Gut and digestive health, if you don’t have a healthy digestive system then you aren’t going to get good assimilation of nutrients. Fiber also has a thermogenic response thus helping with fat loss. This could be the single most important reason why I’m such a huge advocate on having fiber in a diet. There have been several studies proving the thermogenic response that fiber has. Fiber is more filling and satisfying than other carbohydrates and is useful when dieting. Fiber produces short chain fatty acids through fermentation in the colon, and these have several beneficial metabolic effects.

How much fiber should one consume a day? With fiber being such an important part of the diet, ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) suggests a minimum of 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men. But, it’s not so simple to just say “Okay, so if ISSN recommends this amount, then that’s all I need to get for the day right?” Things are never black and white when it comes to nutrition and metabolism, there’s always a grey scale. So, my point being about daily fiber intakes depends on a lot of factors. For example, the greater amount of fat you want to lose and the slower your metabolism is, the more fiber should be raised as it has a thermogenic effect.  And obviously a bigger person will need more fiber than a smaller person. So, again, there is no set calculation, but the ISSN recommendations are a good starting point.  By consuming too much fiber it potentially reduces absorption of vitamins and minerals, diarrhea, cramping, and bloating. An awesome benefit of fiber is if you have a meal high in sugar and consume 5g or more of dietary fiber along with it, than it will blunt the response of sugar going into your blood stream. If you are fairly new to having fiber in your diet than you will tend to get fairly bloated because your digestive tract is not used to the high fiber content (cramps, bloating, and a lot of pooping could be symptoms). Eventually your body will accustom to it, so don’t panic.

I truly believe many people underestimate the benefits of dietary fiber. It is a much overlooked component to our body’s health, we need it daily and most importantly we need to make the right choices as to which kind of fiber we need to consume to get optimal results for our bodies. I understand some people’s bodies are sensitive to fiber and constantly get constipated and bloated, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t consume fiber. Just keep it modified and see what fibers work better for your body. Moving beyond good nutrition is the pursuit of long term health and vitality. Don’t be the one to overlook fiber as part of your daily nutrition. I can’t stress how important the benefits are to your health. So, by hitting your daily fiber goals along with counting your macronutrients you will see the dramatic change and response to your physique. Fiber it up ladies and gents! Peace and god bless!




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