Fiber and Fitness: Is One Impacted by the Other?
It is (or should be) common knowledge that dietary fiber has notable health benefits such as a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer. However, fitness enthusiasts should also appreciate fiber for reasons related to their goals. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or put on muscle, fiber has benefits for everyone. In fact, it’s recommended to consume 25–30 grams of fiber a day. But the unfortunate reality is the average American only takes in about 15 grams per day.
Types of Fiber
There are seven types of fiber that offer different intestinal benefits. For simplicity, they can be categorized as soluble or insoluble fibers.
Water Soluble Fiber
These fibers absorb water during digestion. Because of this process, soluble fibers help you feel fuller longer. Some types will also help regulate blood sugar levels. Common food types of soluble fiber include:
The other type is insoluble. These types of fiber often come from plant cell walls and provide good intestinal motility. You can get these from foods such as the following:
- Leafy greens
The bottom line is both types of fiber should be part of your diet.
Fiber Fitness Benefits
Most people want to lose weight so an immediate plus on fiber is its impact on your appetite. Fiber takes longer to break down so it helps you stay fuller longer. Further, foods with high fiber content typically are low in calories. Then the slow break down helps regulate blood sugar levels. This means you’ll have more consistent energy levels throughout the day. This is a great benefit for those wanting to lose weight because they’ll be more active spontaneously while having more energy for their workouts. It’s hypothesized that counting fiber (instead of calories) can inadvertently cause weight loss. For example, if your counting and hitting your fiber needs, you’re probably eating foods lower in calories and feeling fuller longer.
For people looking to build muscle, fiber is great because the slow breakdown of macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) gives your body more time to absorb them. But timing is important here. For muscle growth, don’t consume a lot of fiber right after your workout. Your body needs the fuel to recover and maximize strength gains in the 45 minutes after your workout. The slow breakdown could prevent this. Instead, eat foods high in fiber throughout the day rather than closer to your scheduled workout times.
Fiber in Your Diet
A high-fiber diet is great for your overall health. So, if you’re one of the people getting 15 grams or less, think about how you can make some changes. Fiber supplements are certainly an option but start by assessing your diet to see where you can add food high in fiber. Add more grains and high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Also, consider starting your day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal or a smoothie as part of a well-balanced diet.
This quick smoothie is great for energy levels and satiety:
- 2 c spinach
- ½ avocado
- ½ banana
- ½ c almond milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract