DIETARY FIBER 101 | What is it, Where to Find it and How Much Do We Need
Fiber is traditionally not a macronutrient but could be considered one because of its fundamental role in our health and metabolism and how much of it we need to optimize our gut health.
That's why we consider it to be one of the FIVE (protein, carbs, fat, water, fiber) macronutrients that you need in a healthy diet.
How much and from which sources?
Let's dig deeper into that.
But first - what is Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that our gut cannot absorb. However, during millions of years, our intestine has developed a symbiosis with microbes that can and do use this fiber as energy.
When fiber reaches the end of the intestinal tract called the colon, the bacteria start to break it down and use it as energy. In that same process, bacteria will excrete the short-chain fatty acid called butyrate, an essential energy source for intestinal tract cells. These cells have developed a need for this butyrate to stay healthy. They can't function without it. In the case of too little fiber and thus too little butyrate for intestinal membrane cells, the colon wall starts to "leak" through toxic elements like lipopolysaccharides. It further causes inflammation throughout the whole body.
As for butyrate - all of which the intestinal wall cells don't use as energy - it is absorbed into the bloodstream and has many great effects on our metabolism and overall health.
The second important thing fiber does is that it causes a gel-like mass of the food that goes through our intestinal system. That means that it slows down the absorption of nutrients. For example, the carbohydrates that would naturally absorb in 30 minutes will be stretched out to 2-3 hours inside the fiber gel mass.
This has two significant benefits…
1. We won't get a blood sugar or insulin spike.
2. Our hunger remains satiated for longer.
If you don’t believe me you can run this fun experiment - eat some fast absorbing sugar like candy with, let's say, 300 kcal. But, on the next day, eat 150 kcal of the same sweet and 150 kcal of vegetables. I predict that you felt hungry and weak after 20-30 min on the first day and it took 2-3 hours on the second day. On the third day now try to eat 300kcals of sweet fruits and note the difference between all three. Pay special attention to the difference in fiber intake between day 2 and day 3.
There’s also a kind of fiber that doesn't produce a gel mass is called insoluble fiber and it is the type of fiber that affects the intestine's hormonal function.
Perhaps the most crucial factor with fiber is the hormonal effect. Did you know that our intestine secretes over 30 different hormones, which are all extremely important for things like our metabolism, our hunger levels and maintaining overall health?
For example, one of the most important hormones is the GLP-1 hormone. Our levels of GLP-1 decline with metabolic syndrome and causes increased weight gain, hunger, and plays a role in developing type 2 diabetes.
What is GLP-1 and why is it important to know about?
GLP-1 (short for glucagon-like peptide-1) is a hormone that is produced by cells in the intestine and pancreas. Its main job is to help regulate the body's blood sugar levels.
When you eat, your body breaks down the food into a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream and used as energy by the cells in your body. GLP-1 helps to control the amount of glucose in the bloodstream by signaling to the pancreas to make and release the hormone insulin. Insulin helps to move the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, where it can be used as energy.
In addition to its role in blood sugar regulation, GLP-1 has also been shown to have other health benefits. For example, it can help to stimulate the production of insulin in people with diabetes, and it also has a role in controlling appetite and body weight.
Overall, GLP-1 is an important hormone that helps to keep the body's blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
So, now we’ve gotten the why out of the way, let’s focus on the how and how much…
Getting enough high-quality fiber from different sources isn't nearly as hard as you might think. The minimum you should aim for is 25 grams per day. The good thing is if you’re partaking in the RL VIGEO Course, this is outlined for you in the most simple way.
In short, focus on fruits as your primary source of carbs and opt for celery and carrots as pre-meal snacks. All are packed with loads of Fiber.
Maybe the most important thing to remember is to get your fibers from a couple different sources. Remember that different fibers have different duties in our intestines and as food for bacteria. Don't overthink this part; try to eat a range of veggies and berries and overtime you will find a great balance for yourself.
If you have eaten very little fiber before and raise those amounts in one day, your stomach may get upset. It is common. Bloating, diarrhea, and lower stomach pain are quite common symptoms. In those cases, it usually goes away over time or the second option is to lower the fiber content and raise it over time; for example, 15-20 grams per day over a month. Then your intestine and its bacteria have time to catch on.
Final words for the lifters reading this, just like everything else, there is too much of a bad thing. After about 50-65g/day, men will not likely experience and additional benefit from more fiber intake and will more likely lead to the discomforts listed above.
Get to it lifter, you got new knowledge to act on.