One of the main misconceptions about flexible dieting or “If it fits your macros” is that you can essentially eat “junk” food all day and still lose weight. This however is not the case; many people tend to overlook daily dietary fiber intake when talking about these types of diets. Due to this reason, there are many people who have mistakenly tried and failed to carry out the dietary principles related to flexible dieting. There are many reasons that dietary fiber is important and I will touch a bit not only on a couple of these reasons but also as to what exactly fiber is.
So, what exactly is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber can also be considered as Beta bonds found in plant structures. Humans cannot break these down as they can other carbohydrates, however certain types can be fermented and processed by the bacteria in out gastrointestinal tract which allows for some caloric value to the “soluble fibers”.
There are 2 types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
- Insoluble garners 0 calories
- Soluble garners 3 calories per gram as a result from bacterial fermentation in the GI tract.
Okay, big deal. What does dietary fiber do?
Dietary fiber helps to move waste through the system (insert happy poop emoji here, no that emoji is not chocolate ice cream). Fiber also has many other health benefits including, healthy weight maintenance, prevention of diabetes and heart disease. Some of the main functions of soluble fiber is that it helps lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Examples of soluble fiber would be things like oats, carrots, phylum etc. (2). Now, insoluble fiber, this could be our powerhouse of the poo and would entail foods such as whole wheat flours, brans, nuts, legumes etc. (2).
We get it, but how much fiber should we be getting?
The amount of fiber ingested is dependent on total carbohydrates ingested; the 2010 dietary guidelines for fiber are 25g/day for women and 38g/day for men. (1) That being said, individuals who have higher carbohydrate intakes should consider adding a little bit to that number. Most individuals only consume roughly 15g/day of fiber which falls reasonably far below the recommendations for both men and women. If you are ever feeling like you’re having a hard time filling your fiber goal try increasing foods such as any green leafy vegetables, whole wheat products, oats, brans, nuts, legumes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and fruits.
Oh wow – but what can be improved by an increased fiber intake?
Well I am so glad you asked, higher fiber intakes help IIFYM dieters in several different ways.
- It helps in lower calorie choices to help fill food volume, which in turns helps to keep overall calories down while in a caloric deficit.
- It helps to get more micronutrients into the diet, which tend to be overlooked in many other diets.
- Phytochemicals in plants can help reduce risk or even reverse heart disease.
- Lower Glycemic index, which means slower absorption into the blood stream and less insulin spiking.
- Having a minimum intake for dietary fiber forces you do make healthier food choices throughout the day.
- In regards to soluble fiber “it appears that viscosity plays a key role in modulating satiety” (3) which can, in turn, help curb binging or overeating.
Not quite sold yet? How about some personal observations…
I tend to have a reasonably high carb intake during my off-season, normally working up to around 400 grams per day. In the past, post-show and into the offseason I have had much lower intakes considering dietary fiber than I currently have. When I had the lower fiber intake, my weight rebounded quite drastically. In fact, I rebounded roughly 15 pounds more when fiber intake was not monitored. I was eating a lot of things like pop tarts and pancakes with syrup. I was also over-eating as well due to a lack of feeling full.
In contrast, I now make sure I intake a minimum of 35 grams of fiber a day, this not only helps to “normalize” the digestive process, but also allows for more satiety, which in turn helps to curb a tendency to over consume calories. I also find my energy levels, focus, and mood states tend to be better when fiber is upheld as well. This most likely can be attributed to micronutrient deficiencies that could be associated with eating less nutrient dense foods (leafy greens, fruits etc.).
What’s the point?
Time to make it simple: if you just eat garbage all day every day, don’t think you’re following flexible dieting. I am a firm believer that flexible dieting can help many people not only achieve their fitness goals, but to do so in a way that preserves mental health but also to avoid eating disorders as well. You have to adhere not only to the macronutrient goals, but also make sure you are getting an appropriate amount of fiber. The saying “don’t knock it till you try it” should only apply if you are in fact, doing it correctly.