By Flex Staff
Fiber is a key nutrient that's commonly found in plant-based foods. Not only is it crucial to good health, but fiber can help bodybuilders stay lean and build fat-free mass when combined with a bodybuilding diet rich in protein and carbohydrates.
Take in at least 25 grams of fiber each day and strive for 35 or more. Feel free to use a fiber supplement in addition to fiber from natural sources. Take note: If your current fiber intake isn't up to par, increase it gradually. Add about three grams a day per week until you reach the desired daily amount.
Here's the lowdown on what fiber can do for you and your physique.
1. FIBER IMPROVES ABSORPTION
Consuming fiber is an important part of creating an anabolic environment in your body, because fiber enhances nutrient absorption along the intestinal walls by helping to keep the walls free of undigested food. That leads to better and more efficient growth.
2. FIBER HELPS RROCESS DIETARY FAT
Many nutritionists focus on the benefits of dietary fat for bodybuilding, yet the fact remains that calorie for calorie, a high-fat diet is not as anabolic or conducive to gains in mass as a lower-fat and higher-carbohydrate diet. Saturated fat, in particular, can contribute to poor heart health and increase the storage of bodyfat. Fiber binds with some of the dietary fat in a meal and pulls it through your body.
If you're eating a fattier cut of steak, or dairy products such as cheese, yogurt or whole milk, a green salad can help neutralize some of the extra fat calories. Even if you're eating low-fat protein foods, adding fiber-rich veggies or ending a meal with a piece of fruit offers fat-fighting benefits.
3. FIBER AFFECTS CARB DIGESTION
Yams, red potatoes, whole-grain bread and oatmeal are among the best slow-burning energy foods. Not only do they provide glucose, the energy source muscles need to work and grow, but they are more slowly digested than most carb sources. Their high fiber content increases the duration of digestion of carbohydrates.
When you slow the entry of carbohydrates into the blood, the "fuel" lasts longer. This helps you stay mentally alert—an important component that contributes to increased training intensity. It is also thought to exert a beneficial effect on body composition. When carbohydrates break down slowly—the result of eating fiber at meals—the body tends to store more of the carbohydrates as muscle glycogen rather than as bodyfat.
4. FIBER INCREASES INSULIN SENSITIVITY
When you eat carbohydrates, the body releases insulin, a strong anabolic hormone. Insulin drives carbohydrates and protein into your muscles, resulting in greater recovery and growth. A potential limiting factor is something called insulin sensitivity. Muscles have receptors for insulin located on their outer edges. The greater the receptor affinity, or attraction, the better insulin can drive carbohydrates and protein into the muscles. Regular training, high levels of muscle mass and low levels of bodyfat enhance this attraction.
Fiber, especially the soluble kind, also plays a role. Foods such as oatmeal, applesauce, peas, pears and black beans offer soluble fiber (wheat bran, for example, is a source of insoluble fiber). Soluble fiber enhances the attraction and helps improve insulin sensitivity. If a lean and muscular physique is your goal, then help your body make use of its own anabolic hormones by including soluble fiber in your diet.
5. FIBER HELPS YOU EAT LESS
It's obvious that vegetables are great for all dieters, including bodybuilders ripping up. Three cups of broccoli yield only 75 calories. That's a lot of chewing for very few calories. An added benefit of fiber is that it blunts your appetite by making you feel fuller. Fiber contributes to the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone produced in the small intestine that triggers a sensation of satiety in the brain. Mixing vegetables into rice or pasta or complementing a baked potato with a salad helps curb the appetite—an important tool for all bodybuilders trying to control bodyfat by managing calories.
6. FIBROUS FOODS CAN GIVE YOU A HARDER APPEARANCE
Years ago, a shredded competitor told me adding salads and vegetables made him more cut. At the time, I assumed this was true due to reasons 2, 3 and 4. But it turns out there may be more to it. There is scientific confirmation that some fiber-rich vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, contain compounds called indoles. Indoles can lead to slightly lower levels of estrogen in males, which, in turn, leads to less water retention and ever-so-slightly higher levels of testosterone. And that can help you look harder when you diet.
7. TIME YOUR FIBER CONSUMPTION FOR BEST RESULTS
Skip fiber after workouts. The goal of post-training meals is speeding up digestion—to get glucose from carbohydrates into the blood as fast as possible to stimulate muscle recovery and growth. Having fiber in a post-training meal would slow down digestion, so save it for all other meals, including late-night snacks, which should be high in protein and have few carbs, if any.