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Fibre & Exercise


There are a few important components to a healthy diet like carbs, protein, and fats..etc. But one that is often overlooked is dietary fibre. Fibre plays an important role in everyone's diet (including athletes!) and supports many different body systems.


Fibre is certainly beneficial for athletes in a variety of ways, but it is important to know when to choose fibre-dense foods and when to avoid them to optimally fuel performance while still maximizing health. Continue reading to learn more about fibre, the different types, the benefits, and when the best time is to have fibre dense foods.


What is Fibre

Fibre is a non-digestible and non-absorbable carbohydrate from plant based foods that mostly passes through your digestive system without breaking down or being digested.

Types of Fibre

1. Insoluble Fibre helps to keep you regular. This type of fibre attracts water in your gut, making your stools softer and easier to pass. You can think of this type of fibre that gives food its structure, like the stringy parts of celery.


2. Soluble Fibre helps to lower cholesterol and control blood glucose. This type of fibre dissolves in water and creates a gel. For example, dry oats vs cooked oats.


Most plants contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, but in different amounts.


Benefits of Fibre

There are many benefits of having adequate fibre in your diet.

  • Control your blood glucose (sugar) – Fibre slows the absorption of sugar into our blood stream, meaning less spikes or drops in blood sugar and a more consistent longer lasting energy supply. It also increases our insulin sensitivity and lowers your risk of developing diabetes.

  • Weight management – Fibre does this in two ways: Increases satiety and decreases calorie intake. You might be thinking, “How is that possible? Doesn’t more calories make me feel more full?” Well, because fibre makes up the structural part of foods, it takes up space in our stomach. When there is pressure on the stomach walls it send signals to our brain that we are full so we stop eating. And because fibre is non-digestible and taking up space in our stomach we are eating less, therefore consuming less calories. Fibre also slows digestion all together making us feel fuller for longer.

  • Gastrointestinal health – Fibre promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation making our guts happy.

  • Lower cholesterol levels – Fibre can do this by binding with cholesterol and fat in your diet and getting rid of it in your stool.

  • Lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer, and can help reduce symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

Foods that are high in fibre are also rich in vitamins and minerals beneficial for recovering from hard workouts making them very nutritious food sources. Feeding multiple birds with one scone, I love it.

How Much do I Need?

Men 19-50

38g

Women 19-50

25g

Men 50+

30g

Women 50+

21g

You can find how much is in a packaged/canned food by looking at the Nutrition Facts Table under the carbohydrates, it will say "Dietary Fibre". When grocery shopping, compare food labels and choose foods with 2 to 4 grams of fibre per serving.

Sources of Fibre

Fruits and Veggies

  • 1 cup raspberries – 8g

  • Pear – 5g

  • Apple – 2-3g

  • 1 cup prunes – 7g

  • 1 cup blackberries – 8g

  • Medium baked potato with skin – 4g

  • 1 cup lettuce – 1g

  • 1 large stalk of celery – 1g

  • ½ cup canned tomato paste – 5g

  • ½ cup canned pumpkin – 13g

Grains

  • 1 cup bran cereal – 8-10g

  • 1/3 cup dry oats - 2-3g

  • 2 slices of whole grain bread – 5-6g

Legumes and nuts/seeds

  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds – 5g

  • ¼ cup hummus – 2-3g

  • ½ cup navy beans – 10g

  • ½ cup lentils, cooked – 8g

  • ½ cup black beans, cooked – 8g

  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter – 1g

  • 8 walnuts – 2g

  • 12 almonds – 2g

How can I Increase Fibre in my Diet?
  • Have a high fibre cereal for breakfast (like bran flakes or oatmeal)

  • Add fruit to your breakfast cereal

  • Have a whole grain sandwich instead of on white bread

  • Have hummus with your veggies

  • Add extra veggies to your dishes such as stir fry and chili

  • Add flaxseed, nuts, or sesame seeds to your salads

  • Leave the skin on veggies and fruit


If you want to increase your fibre intake, it’s important to increase your servings slowly over time. Fibre also requires water for easier digestion so don’t forget to drink enough water as well. Increasing your intake too fast and/or not consuming enough water can lead to gas, abdominal pain, bloating and/or constipation. If you experience these symptoms, please see a health professional to help.


Fibre Timing for Athletes

It is important for athletes to know when to include fibre and when to avoid it all together. When it comes to pre-fuelling for exercise, we want to avoid high fibre foods for a couple reasons. One, fibre doesn't provide any fuel (calories) due to its indigestibility. And two, fibre can cause GI upset because it slows down digestion, keeping food in the stomach for longer. Two no bueno's for athletes! We need fuel and we certainly don't want upset stomachs when we're busting our butts on training or competition days.


Athletes should aim to consume fibrous foods in main meals and snacks away from training and competition, and choose low-fibre options ideally 2 hours before any type of exercise. This gives your body enough time to digest your last fibrous meal before you start exercise. To learn more about what to eat before exercise you can download my freebie "What to Eat Before Infographic". This guide will help you choose the best food options from 30minutes before to up to 4 hours before.


Understanding the role that fibre plays in energy availability and digestion can help athletes further fine tune their fuelling plan for training and competition days. If you need help planning fibre into your your diet and ensuring you're eating enough, hit the contact tab and send me a message. I would love to connect with you.


Please share if you found this helpful and think someone would also benefit from it 💚


-Christine


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