FUELIXIR’S FAST GUIDE TO FIBER
WHAT IS FIBER?
At some point in your life, you’ve had to have seen a food item at the grocery store with the words “GOOD SOURCE OF FIBER” written on the side. But what on earth is it, and why is it so important? Fiber is a nutrient that is plant-based, and is actually a type of carbohydrate. However, this type cannot be broken down into sugar molecules and instead travels through your digestive tract, and does a lot of important things for your body.
TELL ME MORE
Absolutely: there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is just that – soluble in water, and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. Then it will swell up, which slightly slows your digestion to assist the body in absorbing other important nutrients from the food you eat. Studies have also found that soluble fiber can lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels, which is essential in the prevention and management of chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes. Insoluble fiber (you guessed it!) doesn’t dissolve in water and stays bulky as it travels, helping to remove waste from the body. Insoluble fiber has even been associated with removing toxins in the colon!
HOW MUCH OF THIS STUFF DO I NEED?
The recommended fiber intake levels for adults is about 20-35 grams per day, and this should be a good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. However, since everyone’s body is not the same, these numbers can fluctuate. It’s up to you to try out different amounts of fiber in your diet to see what works best for you. Most people tend to eat only 10-15 grams per day on average, which is low for some people, and normal for others. The main point is to make sure to eat a balanced combination of healthy, whole-food sources of fiber like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
OKAY…SO WHAT EXACTLY SHOULD I EAT?
So many foods contain fiber, so it’s not too difficult to find it in your favorites down the grocery isle. Some examples of soluble fiber include nuts, seeds, apples, pears, blueberries, oatmeal, and bran. Insoluble fiber can be found in brown rice, carrots, zucchini, whole-wheat breads, barley, and celery. So throw your favorite veggies on a salad and have a side of nuts, and you have the beginnings of a great fiber-filled meal right in front of you.
BUT I COMPETE IN ENDURANCE SPORTS!
That’s great! Physical activity can aid in the body’s ability to process fiber. It is thought, though, that right before competition, a nervous stomach and a high-fiber meal can spell disaster for an athlete who’s about to race – so eating a low-fiber meal with foods like chicken, yogurt, vegetables with no skin, and a bagel are some good options to choose from. Eating a low-fiber meal can be done before training, about 3 hours before exercise is a good rule of thumb. Try to steer clear of higher fiber meals at least 24 hours before competition, and for some as much as 2-3 days of lower fiber meals may be optimal.
DROP THE MIC
Being on a low-fiber diet or eating fiber at the wrong time of day can be detrimental to your athletic performance, your day to day activities, and even your health in the long run. Eating enough soluble and insoluble fiber is important. But there’s no need to feel like you have to micromanage all of the food you’re eating – just try to eat a variety of fruits, legumes, grains, and veggies throughout the day, and you’ll definitely be on the right path to keeping your intestinal tract…well…on track!
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