Whenever you hear or read about people in the fitness industry debating various dieting strategies, this tends to be focused mainly around macro nutrient intakes (the ratios of proteins, carbs and fats). The timing’s of when these should be eaten and in what forms, how these fit in with your natural hormonal rhythm and what nutrition should be targeted around training or if these timings and types of foods even matter at all often dominates the debate. Occasionally the debate, and rightfully so, will focus on the micro nutrient qualities of these foods, as these are important for healthy function. Whatever the debate one factor that is often neglected and we consider massively important, and is always included in the diet in adequate amounts for any of Team CSN’s athletes or recommended to those seeking nutritional advice, is the addition of plenty of dietary fibre. This article will hopefully open your eyes as to why this is important for you to reach your fitness, and more importantly health goals. Dietary fibres have three main functions in the body, to add bulk and viscosity (adding fluid to dry waste) and fermentation. Dietary fibres have the capacity to adjust the environment of the gastrointestinal tract, with adequate supplies making a more favourable environment, which can directly and positively influence the rate of nutrient digestion and absorption. So what is fibre and how does it work? Well fibre is considered a carbohydrate, but it is not digested in the same manner as sources of carbohydrate used for energy. Fibre therefore contributes a lot less toward energy, insoluble fibre is not digested in the body and so therefore it provides no energy. Soluble fibre is as the name suggests, dissolvable in water and forms a gel like substance when fermented by the stomach bacteria, this slows the passage of foods though our digestive system, so is therefore important to give the digestive systems components time to absorb the nutrients from your food, the slowing of the digestion caused by soluble fibre also slows the release of glucose from foods, helping maintain more stable blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity. This gel like substance also creates a ‘filling’ sensation; soluble fibre is included in many healthy diets in the form of some of our favourite foods for bodybuilding, and general health, including oats, blueberries, strawberries and nuts. Soluble fibre is partially digested by bacteria, with the extent of digestion influencing the calorific content for usable energy; this varies with the numerous subcategories of this type of fibre. No true consensus has been formed as to how much energy we actually gain from soluble fibres, although this is likely to be less than half the amount of calories per gram of a ‘conventional’ carbohydrate. It is the insoluble fibre that is particularly important on low carb diets, as fibres associated with grains that are often removed in low carb diets need to be replaced with increased amount of greens. These low carb, typically high protein diets, can leave you feeling ‘bunged up’ and insoluble fibre will be required in a majority of your meals to keep you ‘regular’. It is for this reason insoluble fibre is considered an essential part of maintaining a healthy waste disposal unit. This is because in soluble fibres have a mild laxative effect and add bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. Fibrous green vegetables are also filling, so can act to fill out meals that may seem bland and lack volume on these kind of diets. Insoluble fibre in the diet can come from many food sources, but to ensure you’re getting enough we recommend the addition of lots of green leafy veg into the diet, such as spinach, broccoli and even kale. For those of us who didn’t eat our greens growing up and still can’t tolerate them there are now many greens products on the market, these usually come in powder form and can be mixed into beverages or foods and include other health promoting anti-oxidants and digestive enzymes and probiotics to work alongside fibre. Which add extra support to the digestive system, helping you get the nutrient quality from the macro nutrients in food, and we recommend Udo's Choice Beyond Greens.
Worth honourable mention when talking about fibre is one of our favourite ways to get a little extra fibre in the diet though our extensive range of Quest bars. Although not designed to replace our ‘greens’ and other all natural sources of fibre, these great tasting snacks are high in protein (about 20g per bar) and the carbohydrate sources used in the production of this bar is in a large part fibre, providing on average 17g of fibre in each 60g bundle of deliciousness. Recommended fibre intake in the UK is 18g per day, containing adequate amounts of both soluble and insoluble fibre, recommendations on this are vague but if you consume over 25g of fibre from a variety of sources, both these requirements should easily be met. We suggest keeping much higher intakes than this, particularly of insoluble fibre, when on high protein diets keeping fibre intake comfortably in excess of 30g. As a rough guide spinach contains around 3g per 100g, broccoli contains 2g per 100g and if you’re looking to get extra fats in your diet, a medium sized avocado contains 10g of fibre! Thanks for reading, hopefully this little insight into the importance of fibre will make you understand why your parents spent so much of their time trying to get you to ‘eat your greens’, see they were right after all! Peace, weights and protein shakes. Paul Rimmer (BSc, MSc)