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Nutrition

Are Abs Really Made in the Kitchen?

By Body Composition, Nutrition

There’s an oft-used saying that “abs are made in the kitchen.

The underlying theory, for those who haven’t heard this before, is that what you eat is more important than how much you exercise if you want to see defined abdominal muscles.

How much truth is there to this mantra? Are Instagram perfect abs really made simply by watching what you eat? Or can you just do a thousand crunches a day and reveal your six-pack that way?

In this article, we’ll 1) break down the science of nutrition vs. exercise and how each impacts body composition, 2) look at a few different types of diet plans and their effects on the body, 3) decide whether the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” is fact or fiction.

Let’s jump right in.

Background

The notion of “abs are made in the kitchen” is based on the fact that it is so much easier to gain calories than it is to burn it off through exercise.

 

This makes sense when you attach some numbers to it.

For example, let’s say your preferred exercise routine is swimming a few days a week. On average, you can expect to burn 400-700 calories in an hour.

But if you go home and scarf down a couple pieces of pizza, you can quickly take in the same amount of calories in a matter of minutes.

So from a time/practicality standpoint, it’s much easier to reduce your caloric intake by 400 – 600 calories a day and create the same calorie deficit as swimming/running for an hour.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that creating a calorie deficit through diet has the same effects on body composition as exercise.

First, we’ll look at some studies that weigh in (pun intended) on exercise.

How Exercise Impacts Body Composition

In a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, 320 post-menopausal women ranging in weight from normal to obese were split into two groups. The first were asked to do 45 minutes worth of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise, 5 times a week for a full year (they actually ended up averaging about 3.6 days per week). The second group did not exercise. And neither group was asked to improve nutrition or try portion control.

After one year, the exercise group lost an average of 5.3 pounds of body fat.

That’s a lot of work to lose 5 pounds of fat.

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, may be a more efficient approach to improving your body composition, especially in the abdominal region. One study compared two groups who exercised at different intensities: one that did three days a week of high-intensity exercise and another that did five days a week of low-intensity exercise. After 16 weeks, the high-intensity exercise group lost both more abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat than the steady-state exercise one.

So it appears exercise, specifically high-intensity exercise, can produce faster results if you want to see those abs.

Next, let’s see what type of impact diet has.

How Diet Affects Body Composition

There are many different diet plans for those hoping to lose fat and/or increase lean body mass. We’ll look at some of the most popular and review which are effective for changing body composition and which need to be studied more.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet (or “Paleo” for short), consists of eating foods that are assumed to have been available to humans prior to the establishment of modern agriculture. If the caveman didn’t eat it, it’s out. This includes eating things like lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and nuts. It excludes foods like grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and processed oils.

Paleo is relatively new (in terms of nutrition research) and therefore doesn’t have a whole lot of credible evidence on its impact on body composition specifically. One meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the Paleo to 4 control diets based on U.S. nutrition guidelines.

The researchers found that the Paleo led to greater short-term improvements in waist circumference, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.

It’ll interesting to see if Paleo proves to be more effective than other diet plans on improving body composition as more studies become available.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet (or “Keto” ) consists of eating high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb foods. It’s similar to Paleo but carbs are restricted to 25-50 grams per day.

A 2013 meta-analysis that compared Keto to a low-fat nutritional plan suggests that keto is more effective for weight loss as well as improvement of cardiometabolic health.

Another study that compared the ketogenic diet to a low-fat diet found that Keto was effective in short-term body weight and fat loss. On top of that, it appears that Keto may support preferential fat loss in the trunk area, although this requires further validation.

Finally, a study in which men performed resistance training three times a week and compared body composition effects of keto vs. the traditional Western diet found that the ketogenic group experienced significant fat mass loss, as well as lean body mass gains, compared to the Western diet group.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking (native to Italy, Greece, Spain, etc.).

This includes large quantities of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, fish and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets and for good reason: It has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Let’s see what type of impact, if any, it has on body composition though.

One study on 248 healthy women published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the Mediterranean diet could help reduce body fat levels.

Another study in subjects with coronary artery disease showed that adherence to the Mediterranean diet significantly reduced body fat mass and percent body fat.

A meta-analysis published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders concluded that the Mediterranean diet “may be a useful tool to reduce body weight, especially when the Mediterranean diet is energy-restricted, associated with physical activity, and more than 6 months in length.”

Finally, when researchers looked at the Mediterranean diet’s effects on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor levels in overweight or obese individuals trying to lose weight and compared them to low-fat diets, they found that the Mediterranean diet produced greater weight loss.

Diets: The Bottom Line

Science shows there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dieting. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed 59 studies with various nutritional recommendations (low-fat, low-carb, etc).

Researchers found that weight loss differences between individual diets were small. Participants were able to change their body composition (lose weight) with both low carb and low-fat diets.

However, getting the right amount of protein seems to be one of the most important things you can do to improve your body composition.

In another meta-analysis of 87 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets favorably affect body mass and composition.

So it seems the consensus is that eating more protein can also help you preserve lean body mass when dieting.

Now, let’s look at the most effective approach for getting a six pack: combining a high protein/low carb diet with different types of exercise like cardio and strength training. This is where things get interesting.

How Exercise Combined with Diet Impacts Body Composition

According to another study published in the journal Obesity that compared the effect of dieting and exercising (alone or combined) on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese post-menopausal women, the diet-only group achieved more weight loss than the exercise-only group. However, the greatest effects were seen in the combined diet/exercise group, “where 60% of participants achieved ≥10% weight loss at 1 year.”

Other studies show similar results: a combination of dieting and exercising works best if you want to lose fat (which is how you will see your abdominal muscles).

The question is, are certain types of exercise (resistance training, long duration cardio, etc) more effective than others for improving your body composition?

In a 2015 review published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, researchers analyzed 66 clinical studies and came to the following conclusions:

  1. Exercise in combination with diet led to the most significant changes in body composition.
  2. The combination of resistance training and diet was more effective than endurance training or a combination of endurance and resistance training at altering body composition measures (reduction of body mass and fat mass).

Conclusion

Making adjustments to how you eat can lead to more fat loss in less time compared to exercise alone.

So, the verdict? Abs are made in the kitchen and the gym.

Like anything worth achieving in life, getting a six-pack takes both work and knowledge. Doing 1000 crunches and 1 hour of cardio a day won’t help you see your abdominal muscles any faster if you don’t make the right changes to your diet.

“Spot reduction” is also another myth. You can target your abs and core with resistance training that help with the muscles in that area, but you also need to lose overall body fat to see the definition in those abdominal muscles– and that requires a combination of diet and exercise.

So where do you go from here?

First, determine your body composition goals. If your goal is to lose fat and gain more definition, then you’re going to have to eat at a calorie deficit. If your goal is to increase lean body mass and lose fat, then your diet and exercise regimen may look different.

At the end of the day, the best exercise/nutritional plan is the one you can stick with. Once you find the right approach for you, you can make it a lifelong habit. That’s what will give you your six-pack.

***

Scott Christ is a health and wellness entrepreneur, writer, and website strategy consultant. He’s also the creator of the world’s healthiest plant-based protein powder.

What to Eat In Order to Gain Muscle

By Muscle, Nutrition

So you started working out and lowered your overall body fat.

First off, congratulations should be in order!

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight  despite life’s occasional curveballs is something that you should be proud of. The positive changes in your body composition is proof that your efforts have finally paid off!

So where do you go from here?

Your next goal may be one of the following:

I want a huge, action star physique.

I want to achieve a leaner, more athletic look.

I want to increase my functional strength and achieve new PR’s in my lifts

Whether your goal is gaining strength or sculpting your body to your desired physique, the approach boils down to same thing — gaining muscle.

Eating for Well-Defined Muscles

As previously discussed in an article published about how much muscle you can gain in a month, the three main pillars of muscle growth are: nutrition, exercise, and hormones.

In this article, we’ll put the spotlight on nutrition and address your most frequently asked questions about what to eat in order to build muscle.

Let’s get started!

People use lean body mass and muscle mass interchangeably. Are they similar or different from each other?

Yes, lean body mass and muscle mass are two different things.

Essentially, all muscle is “lean” meaning it is primarily composed of proteins, which are lean. However, things start to get more confusing when some folks use lean body mass and skeletal muscle mass interchangeably.

Lean body mass (LBM), also known as lean mass, refers to your total weight minus all the weight comprised of fat mass. This includes your organs, your skin, your bones, your body water, and your muscles.

On the other hand, skeletal muscle mass (SMM) is a part of your LBM, but it is the part that is referring to the specific muscles used that are controlled voluntarily to produce movement and maintain posture. When you’re thinking about gaining muscle, you are actually referring more specifically to your SMM. This is what we want to track and here’s why:

Apart from changes in your SMM, a gain in your LBM numbers can also be a result of water gain. Water gain can occur from bloating or eating salty foods but also from swelling from injury or disease. That’s why you cannot attribute a increase to LBM numbers completely to muscle gains.

You can learn more about the distinction between the two in Lean Body Mass and Muscle Mass: What’s the Difference?

Now that we cleared that up, let’s dig into the facts and findings about muscle gains through diet and nutrition.

Is the hype about protein justified when it comes to bigger muscle gains?

Yes, to an extent. It’s an established fact that eating high quality protein within close temporal proximity (immediately before and within 24 hours after) of resistance exercise is recommended to increase muscle gains.

The strain of repetition when you perform resistance exercise tears the muscle fibers, and the protein intake (although macronutrients like carbs and fat play a role, too) provides the resources to rebuild the newly torn muscles into something bigger and stronger.

It’s also worth noting that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and as you most likely already know, your muscle is made up of these macronutrients. As we’ve emphasized in Why Everyone Needs Protein — Think of your muscles as the house itself while the amino acids that make up protein are the bricks.

The good news is that your body can manufacture a huge chunk of these amino acids. The not-so-good news is that some of them, also known as essential amino acids (EAA), can’t be made by the body. You have to get your EAAs from food sources.

In short, you need to follow a high protein meal plan that contains mixed amounts of these EAAs to help ensure increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS)

How do I know if I have enough protein intake to promote MPS?

As of June 2017, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) for building and maintaining muscle mass. Remember, your specific dietary needs depend on the amount of muscle mass you have as well as the type and intensity of your physical activity

With these figures in mind, let’s say you weigh 125 pounds (57 kilos), and you’re working to increase your LBM.  You would need 57 x 1.4- 2.0, or 79.8 – 114 grams of protein a day.

This may sound like a lot but it’s not. A cup (140 grams) of chicken contains 43 grams of protein.   Meanwhile, a can of tuna can contain as much as 49 grams.  Eating a cup of chicken and a can of tuna, you’d almost entirely meet your protein needs.  If you add in a glass of 2% milk (another 9-10 grams of protein), you’ve already hit your goal.

Below is a rough dietary guideline based on activity level:

  • 0.8-1.2 g/kg for regular activity
  • 1.2-1.5 g/kg for endurance athletes
  • 1.5-1.8 g/kg for strength/power athletes

If counting grams of protein for the day is not your thing, researchers have recommend an intake of about 20-40 grams of whey protein following a heavy bout of whole body resistance exercise to promote greater muscle recovery. The results stressed that the traditional 20 grams of whey supplement after working out did not promote as much MPS as the 40 grams of protein.

Can I build more muscle from eating too much protein?

Not really.

Researchers found that eating five times the recommended daily allowance of protein has no effect on body composition in resistance-trained individuals who otherwise maintain the same training regimen. That means that doubling or tripling your protein intake doesn’t translate to greater muscle gain after exercise.

It’s also worth noting that this is one of the first interventional study to demonstrate that eating a high protein meals does not result in an increase in fat mass.

Will too much protein hurt my kidneys?

While protein restriction may be appropriate for treatment of existing kidney disease,  some research has shown high protein intake in healthy individuals to not be harmful to kidney function.  Unlike extra stores of fat that the body is so keen about in holding on, the amino acids in protein are more likely to be excreted via the urine when not in use.

With that in mind, there are certainly risks associated with consuming too much protein so it’s wise to keep your intake in check.

So what our conclusion here? Eating more protein makes you feel fuller longer, can help curb overeating, and is essential for recovery and growth but don’t forget equally important nutrients like carbohydrates and fats for proteins when hitting your daily caloric goals (we’ll address this issue later).

Meat is often considered an excellent source of protein. So should I eat more meat to gain muscle? What if I’m on a plant-based diet?

Good question!

Sure, meat provides complete sources of proteins that are rich in essential amino acids so it truly is an excellent source of protein.

In a small study comparing  the effects of resistance training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle among two groups — older men with an omnivorous (meat-containing) diet and those with lacto-ovo vegetarian (meat-free) diet, the researchers found that the omnivorous diet resulted to greater gains in fat-free mass and skeletal muscle mass when combined with resistance training than the vegetarian-diet group.

Another study of 74 men and women who had type 2 diabetes — one half on a vegetarian diet and the other half on a conventional diabetic diet — were assessed at three and six months to measure how much weight they had lost. The study concluded that the vegetarian diet was almost twice as effective at reducing weight compared with the conventional diet.

But here’s the caveat — The greater weight loss seen in people on the vegetarian diet was also accompanied by greater muscle loss, particularly when maintaining their normal exercise routine. This might be an unwanted outcome and a disadvantage when compared with the omnivorous diet.

Finally, another research study examining the relationship between the type of protein intake and the level of muscle mass in healthy omnivorous and vegetarian Caucasian women found:

“A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower muscle mass index than is an omnivorous diet at the same protein intake. A good indicator of muscle mass index in women seems to be animal protein intake.”

Take note, however, that these findings do not automatically mean that animal protein is necessary to develop muscle mass.

As we mentioned in this in-depth article on whether or not you need to eat meat to gain muscle, the findings indicate that vegetarians might have a harder time getting adequate protein intake. As a result, they may not be receiving the same quality of amino acid variety to support muscle maintenance/growth as meat-eaters. This issue can be addressed by adding more variety in your diet or through supplementation.

So what about my intake of carbs and fat?

If you want to build muscle, increasing your dietary protein intake makes sense. However, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard carbs and fats.

For one, carbohydrates help replace glycogen and aids in enhancing the role of insulin when it comes to transporting nutrients into the cells, including your muscles. Combining protein and carbs also has the added advantage of limiting post- exercise breakdown and promoting growth.

In a nutshell, a diet balanced in protein, carbs, fats, and fiber is the most effective way to build muscle.

How about the ketogenic diet? Can it help me gain more muscle mass?

Most likely.  The main premise of a ketogenic diet is to opt for high fat, moderate protein, and a very low carb diet.

In an 11-week study of men who performed resistance training three times a week, the researchers found that lean body mass increased significantly in subjects who consumed a very low carb, ketogenic diet (VLCKD). Significant fat loss was also observed amongst the VLCKD subjects.

Does “when I eat” if I want to build muscle?

For decades, the idea of nutrient timing (eating certain macronutrients at specific times like before, during, or after exercise) and meal scheduling has sparked a lot of interest, excitement, and confusion.

A good example of nutrient timing is the idea of the anabolic window, also known as a period of time after exercise, where our body is supposedly primed for nutrients to help recovery and growth.

However, a review of related literature revealed that while protein intake after workout helps muscle growth, it may persist long after training.

If you’re going to ask the ISSN,  meeting the total daily intake of protein, preferably with evenly spaced protein feedings (approximately every 3 h during the day), should be given more emphasis for exercising individuals.

They also state that ingesting a 20–40 g protein dose (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) of a high-quality source every 3 to 4 hours appears to favorably affect MPS rates over other dietary patterns, which allows for improved body composition and performance outcomes.

In short, it’s more important to focus on the total amount of protein and carbohydrate you eat over the course of the day than worry about nutrient timing strategies.

The Takeaway

In summary, here’s what you need to remember when it comes to eating in order to gain muscle:

  • Muscle gains are hard to come by if you don’t complement your exercise training with the right nutrition. Besides acting as fuel for physical activity, eating right helps in muscle recovery and development of new muscle tissue.
  • Pay special attention to your protein intake in order to build muscle. Helpful figures to remember are 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) depending on your body composition, activity type, and activity intensity.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about a specific amino acids and anabolic (muscle-building) superpowers. However, it’s still important to consume different sources of protein when you can and not just focus on a single protein source. Plus, remember that your body needs carbs and fat too.
  • Do not worry about when is the best time to eat your steak. Eating a portion of lean protein with some fiber-rich carbs and fat every meal is a good way to help your body repair and rebuild muscle after resistance exercise. As much as possible, increase make sure to complement your exercise with the appropriate nutrients to promote muscle recovery and growth.
  • If you’re on a plant-based diet, make sure you’re incorporating a wide variety of protein-rich plants to ensure that you’re getting the full range of amino acids. You may have to consider plant-based protein powder supplementation.

Remember, people have different goals when it comes to working out and gaining muscle  — from aesthetics to improved sports performance to feeling better about yourself. That means there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Whatever your goal, it all begins with one small step at a time. What changes are you going to make today?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/what-to-eat-in-order-to-gain-muscle/

All About Fiber and Its Dirty Little Secrets

By Body Composition, Nutrition

Ask anyone knowledgeable in nutrition about the benefits of fiber and the positives will trump over the negatives. People claim this type of carbohydrate will help you reduce your risk of certain cancers, lower your type 2 diabetes risk, and help with weight loss as it supposedly reduces appetite and increase satiety. In other words, fiber is magic and should be given the same amount of adoration that we shower antioxidants and the rest of the nutritional superstars with.

Yet when was the last time you fact-checked fiber’s benefits? What if we dig deeper into recent nutrition research to learn more?

In this article,  we’ll put fiber in the limelight and sort myths from facts. While mainstream beliefs will tell you that adding lots of fiber to your daily diet is key to good health, let’s figure out if this advice is scientifically sound, especially when it comes to sustainable weight loss and improving your body composition.

Know Thy Fiber

Before we dive into separating myths from established facts and findings, let’s cover the basics.

Dietary fiber, sometimes referred to as roughage, refers to a broad, diverse group of carbohydrates that we, as humans, cannot digest because we are lacking in digestive enzymes to break them down. For this reason, roughage ends up in your colon unchanged.

So why would something that humans can’t digest turn out to be beneficial part of your diet?

Fibers are inherently unique from each other due to their chemical properties. That’s right, the fiber you find brown rice is different than the kind you find in oats. Scientists categorize dietary fibers based on a specific set of characteristics.

To have a better understanding as to how fiber can possibly impact your body composition and overall health, let’s take a closer look at this indigestible carbohydrate through the lens of its popular methods of classification: solubility, viscosity, and fermentability, and a special note on resistant starch.

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

irst of all, all plant-based foods are generally a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Think of the soluble fiber as the dawdling sibling while the insoluble type is the speedster in the family. How come?

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and morphs into a gel-like substance when it passes through the gut. Foods high in soluble fiber include apples, beans, blueberries, lentils, nuts, and oat products.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and the term roughage generally refers to this specific type. Unlike its slow solubility sister, roughage does the exact opposite. It speeds up transit time in the digestive system and adds bulk to your stool. This is the basis of the most common health recommendation for eating more roughage: to prevent constipation by helping food move through your system.

Foods high in insoluble fiber include brown rice, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, wheat, whole wheat bread, and whole grain couscous.

Contrary to popular belief, solubility does not reliably predict whether or not a certain type of fiber is beneficial to your health. However, the terms soluble and insoluble are still used by many nutrition and healthcare professionals including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in nutritional labels.

Viscous and Nonviscous Fiber

Another way of classifying fiber is through its viscosity. Certain types of soluble fiber are more viscous, or more likely to form firmer, stickier gels when mixed with water than other types. When you digest food with high-viscous fiber in it, it increases the viscosity of the gel-like substance that passes through your gut. As a result, it reduces your appetite because you feel fuller longer.

Viscous fibers include the following:

  • pectins (abundant in berries and fruits)
  • β-Glucans (Beta-glucans: abundant in barley and oats)
  • guar gum (commonly derived from the Indian cluster bean)
  • psyllium (isolated from psyllium seed husks)

The most frequently cited benefits of fiber (e.g., reduce cholesterol levels, improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes, improve stool form in both constipation and diarrhea) is directly correlated to its viscosity. Nonviscous food sources tend not to have these beneficial properties. This is incredibly important because the general public tend to lump all types of fiber as one and associate its health benefits to all types too. Until more is known about the beneficial effects of low-viscosity fibers, a good strategy is to learn toward foods higher in viscosity.

Fermentable and Nonfermentable Fiber

If you’re not aware yet, your entire body is host to trillions (yes, trillions!) of beneficial bacteria.  The majority live in your intestines and are referred to as your gut microbiome. Also known as the forgotten organ, these little creatures have a say in your body composition and overall health.

The beneficial bacteria in your gut thrive on fermentable fiber. Not to mention that this wonderful alchemy of fermentation in your gut produces short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate that suppress gut inflammation and can possibly reduce your risk of various digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Majority of fermentable fibers are soluble, but some insoluble fibers are cool with fermentation too. Foods that are rich in fermentable fibers include oats and barley, as well as fruit and vegetables. Cereal fibers that are rich in cellulose (like wheat bran) are nonfermentable.

Special Note on Resistant Starch

Lately, many experts have been encouraging people to add resistant starch to your diet because of its powerful health benefits.

Resistant starch is not exactly a fiber, but another form of carbohydrate (long form of glucose molecules really) that functions like soluble and fermentable fiber. Like fiber, Resistant starch is not fully broken down and absorbed in your small intestine and gut bacteria thrive on it. When fermented, resistant starch produces short-chain fatty acids as well as gases (which in turn can lead to bloating and abdominal discomfort when eaten/taken in excess).

Great food sources of resistant starch to add to your diet include beans, various legumes, green bananas, cashews, raw oats, and cooked (and then cooled) rice/potatoes. The cooling process turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches through a process called retrogradation.

So why differentiate all the different types of fibers? Because each types will have different effects in the digestive process and having an array of natural food sources (whole wheat, oats, brown rice, starch) in your diet can have a positive overall impact on your health by improving digestion and also feeding bacteria that work so hard to keep you healthy.

Fiber’s Claims to Fame: Legit or Not?

When we talk about fiber and its impact on one’s health, we are often told about the following benefits:

  • Lowers down blood sugar levels
  • Reduces cholesterol levels
  • Prevents chronic constipation
  • Reduces the risk of specific cancers such as colon cancer and breast cancer
  • Help with weight loss and improve weight control

The American Dietetic Association recommends 14g of dietary fiber per 1,000 kcal of food intake or roughly 25g for adult women and 38g for adult men. Food variety in your diet is encouraged to meet one’s daily fiber requirement. Mix it up with whole wheat, nuts, starchy carbs, and vegetables.

Like so much of nutrition, what’s true today may not be true anymore in the next three, five, or ten years. Research findings and conclusions that once seemed valid and well-founded may be revised— or even totally flipped— as new research is completed. The idea that fat doesn’t actually make you fat is a good example.

With that said, let’s figure out the recent science-backed truths of the aforementioned benefits.

Does fiber help in reducing blood sugar and cholesterol levels?

In terms of fiber’s ability to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, a review of studies on the subject published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics last February revealed the following:

“…high viscosity fibers (eg, gel-forming fibers such as b-glucan, psyllium, and raw guar gum) exhibit a significant effect on cholesterol lowering and improved glycemic control, whereas non-viscous soluble fibers (eg, inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and wheat dextrin) and insoluble fibers (eg, wheat bran) do not provide these viscosity-dependent health benefits…”

With this information, we can see that not all fibers are created equal. If lowering your serum LDL cholesterol and normalizing blood glucose and insulin levels is your goal, adding soluble, viscous fibers to your diet (mainly from whole food sources) would be beneficial.

Meanwhile, resistant starch can potentially lower down blood sugar levels after meals and improve insulin sensitivity.  This means that your body is less likely to store excess glucose as fat. This is good news if you’re currently working to lose fat mass as a priority in improving your body composition.

The takeaway: Not all types of fiber can help control blood sugar and reduce cholesterol levels. To gain fiber’s benefits in terms of regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol, opt for high viscous fibers and resistant starches.

Does fiber help with chronic constipation?

How many times have you been told to add more fiber to your diet if you’re having chronic problems in maintaining regularity in your bowel movement?

It turns out that this common advice is not as true as we thought.

In fact, a 2012 study concluded that idiopathic constipation (or constipation of unknown cause) and its associated symptoms can be effectively reduced by stopping or even lowering the intake of dietary fiber.

Furthermore, the same review of studies which examined fiber’s impact on blood sugar and cholesterol recommended that not all types of fiber can help with chronic constipation. The researchers concluded that large/coarse insoluble fibers are more effective as a laxative. Soluble fermentable fibers (e.g. inulin, fructooligosaccharide, and wheat dextrin) do not provide a laxative effect, and some fibers can even be constipating (e.g. wheat dextrin and fine/smooth insoluble wheat bran particles).

The takeaway: Not all types of fiber can help with chronic constipation. Specifically, fruits and vegetables can increase stool bulk and shorten transit time. Meanwhile, fiber supplements that are effective in treating constipation include cellulose and psyllium.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of cellulose because this type of fiber is mainly found in plant cell walls. On the other hand, psyllium is isolated from the seeds of Plantago ovata, an herb mainly grown in India. Also known as ispaghula husk, it often comes in supplement form such as granules, powder, and capsules. Psyllium is the active ingredient in Metamucil, a popular supplement to reduce constipation.

Some baked goods and fortified cereals contain this type of fiber.

An important note on this is that sufficient fluid intake is also required to maximize the stool-softening effect of increased fiber intake.

Does fiber help reduce my risk of colorectal cancer (as what most people believe)?

The surprising fact is that much of the research does not support this. Recent findings from large prospective cohort studies and clinical intervention trials do not see an association between fiber intake and the risk of colorectal cancer. In fact,  a 4-year intervention trial found out that supplementation with 7.5 g/day of wheat bran had no effect on colorectal adenoma recurrence.

As for general disease prevention, it’s worth noting that observational studies that identify associations between high-fiber intakes and reductions in chronic disease risk tend to assess only fiber-rich foods rather than fiber itself. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether observed benefits are actually related to fiber or perhaps, other nutrients or antioxidants found in fiber-rich foods. Another point for eating foods that are naturally high in fiber instead of relying on fiber supplements.

Can I rely on fiber supplements to get the same benefits as fiber from whole sources?

To get the full-benefits of fiber, research reveals that fiber-rich foods trump (as always when it comes to nutrition) supplement sources. A systematic review of studies found out that most supplements do not help at all in reducing body weight.

Okay, Enough With the Science! I Just Want to Lost Weight. Can Fiber Help?

Yes. But you have to understand that fiber for weight loss doesn’t apply to all types of fiber.

As mentioned earlier in this article, some fibers are readily fermented by your gut microbiome, most of which are soluble fibers.  Soluble fibers, alongside resistant starch, help promote a thriving and diverse community of gut bacteria. Collectively, they are often referred to as prebiotics (not to be confused with probiotics which are live bacteria). If Popeye thrives on spinach, your gut bacteria thrives on prebiotics!

So what do prebiotics have to do with weight loss and your body composition?

Currently, there is reasonable evidence that increased dietary prebiotic intake decreases inflammation and helps improve insulin sensitivity. It’s worth noting that both inflammation and reduced insulin sensitivity are strong drivers of weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

By feeding your gut’s friendly and health-promoting bacteria with the right type of fiber, you also reduce your risk of obesity or unwanted weight gain. As for fiber’s role in promoting satiety reducing appetite (thus the popular belief that fiber can help with weight loss), research on the subject continues to yield conflicting results.

Conclusion

In summary, fiber’s benefits are wide ranging, but they don’t all come from one food source. In the end, variety is king. Recent findings show viscous fiber types and resistant starch may be the best sources, not just in transforming body composition but also helping you improve in key biometrics like cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Ultimately, getting more fiber in your diet from whole food sources is always better than relying on supplements. After all, nutrition is not about eating more protein, carbs, or any specific nutrient, but it’s the synergy of these nutrients that truly matters. Besides, berries and apples are more flavorful (and more appetizing!) than chewable tablets, right?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/all-about-fiber-and-its-dirty-little-secrets/

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