Start feeling the hunger pangs of dieting and the first suggestion you hear is undoubtedly, “fill up on fiber!” Said to help improve satiety and improve fat loss efforts, fiber is the go-to starvation saver. Like most things in the fitness industry, most good ideas get taken to extremes, creating issues that may cause more harm than good in the grand scheme of physique enhancement goals. Considerations rarely discussed in social media are explained below to help you better balance your fiber intake and make your next dieting phase more comfortable and in turn, more productive along the way.

 

Fiber’s Role

Before I dive into how fiber is often overused, it’s important to first and foremost highlight its beneficial role in the human body. Technically labeled as “non-starch polysaccharides,” dietary fiber is a group of carbohydrate types from plant sources only partially broken down by the human digestive system. Dietary fiber helps provide roughage to aid in regular digestion, not to mention, many whole food sources also carry a high density of micronutrients beneficial to general wellness. [1][2]

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

In general, dietary fiber can be broken up into two major sub-types: soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble (doesn’t dissolve in water). Insoluble fiber is particularly beneficial since it essentially provides indigestible material that acts as a brush to push necessary substances along the digestive tract- promoting regular bowel movements. Soluble fiber on the other hand, attracts water, forms a gel-like substance, and contributes bulk to stool for regular, comfortable bowel movements. Digestion benefits, along with potential benefits in healthy cholesterol levels and heart health, make it a clear necessity in a healthy diet.

With that out of the way so this article isn’t misconstrued as suggesting fiber is bad, let’s get into the common issues that can arise when fiber intake is taken past necessary amounts when dieting, and the subsequent hindrance in performance and competition success.

 

Glycogen Replenishment & Dieting

If you’re dieting for any appreciable length of time, you’re bound to deal with a significant amount of hunger. Diet as slow and strategically as you want. Time your meals, pay close attention to weekly rate of loss, fill up on low calorie drinks and go through more chewing gum than a chain smoker does cigarettes. Try as you might, hunger is a cruel mistress who makes no exceptions in who she teases. When chewing gum and watching Cake Wars during cardio doesn’t work, the pervading physique development advice is to fill up on fiber to avoid hunger. Desperate to make fat loss gains without the pain, athletes take the advice and run with it.

High fiber flat breads, protein bars with enough fiber to keep an elephant regular, and of course bushels of vegetables fill athletes’ pantries throughout their diet. The first couple of days are often smooth sailing (in more ways than one), but certain forsaken physiological factors start becoming apparent, raining on the fiber festivities.

Sure, fiber creates bulk in the stomach that may temporarily help us feel fuller. However, another trait special to fiber is lack of contribution to muscle glycogen synthesis. Since dietary fiber is only partially digested by humans, virtually no energy in the form of glycogen is synthesized. Especially pertinent to physique athletes, this means the daily carb intake we consume through dietary fiber is providing little to no help to us in our training sessions, or even casual energy levels throughout the day.

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