Today I thought we would take a brief look into a rarely explored realm of body transformation.
When we pursue our new lean dream, we often find ourselves fixated on the bland food the gruelling exercise, or how many social drinks we will be missing in the coming weeks. Rarely does a person consider that gut health may play a key role in obtaining single digit levels of bodyfat and even fewer would take the time to consider dietary fibre a supreme fat loss aid.
Fibre, dietary fibre or roughage is the indigestible portion of plant based food.
Chemically, dietary fibre consists of non-starch polysaccharides such as arabinoxylans, cellulose and many other plant components such as resistant dextrins, inulin, eaxes, chitins, pectins, beta-glucans and oligosaccharides
Now these indigestible portions of plant based foods come in two different forms, each being unique and in possession of their own specific beneficial qualities:
Soluble Fibre – This is fibre which is fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active byproducts. It is resistant to breakdown by the digestive enzymes in your mouth, stomach and small intestine.
Insoluble Fibre – This is fibre which is dead metabolically speaking. Its job is to simply carry food and water through the digestive tract. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve, instead it swells up like a sponge adding bulk to the stool. This type of fibre makes your faeces move faster through the intestine.
The majority of our fibre intake should ideally come from natural sources such as grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts on a daily basis.
However, realistically the majority of our dietary fibre intake comes from refined foods which have been fortified with ‘functional dietary fibre’. Functional dietary fibres are isolated non-digestible carbohydrates that are placed into foods which otherwise would not contain any source of natural fibre. Think of your high fibre cereal and breads! This form of fibre is far from ideal when it comes to health or indeed body composition.
But why is stuff important?
Many studies have shown that common GI diseases such as colon cancer, diverticulosis and appendicitis could have their roots in part to lack of dietary fibre, but it doesn’t just stop there.
Low fibre diets have been associated with many other health problems including:
- Cardiovascular diseases and high levels of triglycerides in the blood
- GI Disorders, cancers and poor bowel function
- High cholesterol
- Excess body fat
- High blood pressure
A 1995 study showed that participants that consumed the highest amount of fibre also lived the longest. The researchers actually stated that ‘dietary fibre intake was associated with a significantly lowered risk of total death in both men and women’.
In addition, the researchers broke down the specific disease risks and found that the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory disease was significantly less in both men and women who consumed the most fibre.
Fibre And Fat Loss
Now this is the bit that is obviously of most interest to the majority of the readers here.
According to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, the way to zero in and reduce visceral fat is simple: eat more soluble fibre and engage in moderate activity. The study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7%
Pretty promising right?
We know what these studies are like though…they generally use obese, sedentary individuals where any mild positive change in diet is likely to give at least a little benefit.
What can fibre do for you and I though, my fat busting friend?
- Fibre increases dietary bulk, decreases energy density and reduces energy intake, making it a great strategy for reducing hunger.
- According to MayoClinic, high-fibre foods take longer to chew, which reduce the temptation to overeat.
- Consuming fibre with meals stabilises blood sugar.
- Soluble fibre slows down transit time (the time it takes for food to enter and leave the body) and encourages a more gradual breakdown of food. Specifically, it slows down the emptying of the stomach and the digestion of starches (and subsequent entry of glucose into the blood stream). Since glucose absorption will be slower, you can avoid the blood sugar ups and downs.
- Oestrogen dominance is a huge factor to consider when pursuing a fat loss goal. 90% of the clients I caliper are Oestrogen dominant which not only poses a potential health risk but also leads to fat storage around the legs and backside. Fibre binds to Xenoestrogens (Environmental Oestrogens/Oestrogen Mimickers) as well as other toxins in the intestines and carries them safely out of the body. Less toxins and Oestrogen…more lean legs and six packs.
How much do we need and how to get it?
A diet high in fibre is one of the very few dietary habits that just about all nutritional experts can agree upon. Of course recommendations do vary from organisation to organisation regarding the optimum amount to consume each day, but my below recommendations will act as a good starting figure:
Men should aim for between 35-45g of dietary fibre per day
Women should aim for between 25-35g dietary fibre per day
It is recommended by some that Diabetics should shoot for upwards of 50g of dietary fibre per day.
I personally believe that it is a good idea to try and obtain your fibre from a wide variety of whole food sources that contain various kinds of fibre. The major benefit of using natural foods as opposed to fibre supplements is that the phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals come as part of the package.
However in our modern world where soil quality is poor and where agricultural processes have near destroyed most of the goodness we can obtain from our foods, I do recommend supplementation to be sure that we hit our numbers.
There are many fibre powders available for relatively little cost. My personal favourite powders include: Psyllium Husk, Flaxseed Powder, Inulin, Apple Pectin as well as a variety of the Poliquin ranges such as ‘Primal Fiber’.
I tend to recommend these over other sources as many commercial products contain artificial sweeteners, added sugar and gluten; all of which are detrimental to the beneficial effects of increased fibre.
You spin me right round baby right round…
Just like with most supplements you should cycle your brands, sources and types of fibre regularly. Some experts including Charles Poliquin recommend that your fibre source should be changed every 8 days to avoid your body getting used to it becoming ineffective.
Now hold up there Johnny my fibrous friend!
May I please take this time to give forth a warning?
If you are planning on upping your daily fibre consumption (as I would recommend), take your time!
Take your time, listen to how your body reacts and enjoy the benefits of a higher fibre diet!