Fiber for fat loss

Perhaps the biggest casualty of our poor eating habits, especially in "The West", is that because of our fast lifestyles and love for processed foods, we've reduced the average fiber intake to unhealthy levels.  Actually fiber is widely misunderstood by a lot of people.  Before college I thought fiber was a building block, the "fibers" of the human body.  Its actually not used to build at all but rather to clean and keep the system moving properly.

What is fiber anyway?

Fiber is simply a substance that your body is unable to process in the GI tract and so it travels relatively unmolested through the digestive system.  However, just because its not digested doesn't mean that anything goes for fiber.  You can't eat rocks for fiber, or cardboard (although this is more popular than one would think as you'll see in a second), or plastic, even though these things aren't digested.  Dietary fiber needs to be natural and mainly comes from vegetables and fruit skins.  Fiber is technically a carbohydrate but you can read how much of it is in any product with a food label.  The fiber would be listed as "other" or "fiber".  Keep in mind things like sugar alcohols are lumped into "other" so try to find things listed as "fiber".  

Examples of fiber are "stalky" vegetables like celery and broccoli, as well as nuts, beans, lentils, and some grains like oats.  Typically fiber content of anyone's diet can be analyzed by the bathroom habits (#2!) and if you're deficient you'll have constipation.  Not to sound gross, but normal fecal movement should be solid and regular, no more than 12 hours apart or so.

Gross.  Who cares?

You should care because chronic constipation is a huge problem for more than one reason.  Not only does it result in cramping and all sorts of inflammation, it also distorts the body's ability to remove toxins from our food, of which there are plenty!

Retaining toxins in the digestive tract is guaranteed to cause problems, absolutely guaranteed, its only a matter of time.  The exception of this rule is controlled fasting, but not eating at all versus eating lots of junk with too little fiber are not the same thing.

Chronic digestive issues caused by lack of fiber and other things up the increase of digestive cancers, mental issues (the gut and brain are intricately linked), autoimmune issues of all sorts, and skin and eye issues.  It can also hinder weight loss for more than one reason and that is what we're discussing now.

Fiber can help me shed fat how.

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To keep it brief we'll oversimplify and talk about 3 fat loss pathways that are impacted by lack of fiber.

1) increased water weight retention

2) decreased release of toxins that STORE in fat cells

3) vitamin and mineral deficiencies which compromise numerous systems

Water weight retention affects everyone at some point in time.  70% of people are reported to be dehydrated at any given time, and dehydration causes water retention, not water loss that we would think.  The exception to this is severe dehydration which is typically not a huge problem in America where you can find drinkable water just about anywhere.

Fiber helps to retain water as insoluble and soluble fiber will attract water.  You can see this if you keep fibrous vegetables in water as they swell and retain water.  This is great for humans because fiber plus water makes a favorable environment for stool to move smoothly through the body, taking toxins and other debris with it, including bacteria.  

If there's no fiber then there's really nothing to bind to all these fats, sugars and whatever else is in the general food supply.  They sit there, fats go rancid, undigested protein goes putrid and disease follows.  Its really not much different than the sewage system of a city.  You can imagine how clogged, diseased and disgusting sewers can be when the water is too low.

Strategy:  Bring up your fiber intake to 25 grams / day for women and 35 for men, and drink plenty of water to keep it all moving.

Toxins are a primary staple in the disease paradigm of modern society.  They are absolutely everywhere and hardly avoidable unless you go off the grid, and even then you're not absolutely safe!

A little known fact in mainstream health is that as toxins accumulate in the body, many of them are "jailed" in fat cells.  This is a godsend for human existence because if we didn't have a way to deal with these rogue toxins, they would just wreak havoc relentlessly.  Some of these toxins cannot be metabolized at all, and so if they're not going into the toilet or some other means they have to be quarantined.  The fat cells do nicely for this.  And can you imagine what happens when toxins just keep piling up, partly due to a lack of fiber and a laggy digestive tract?  You go it.  We get fatter and fatter, and no amount of exercise is going to get rid of those toxins except what we sweat out.  

Fiber in a way acts as a pipe cleaner for the digestive tract.  It has to be kept clean or disease follows.  Guaranteed.  

Lastly, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be very hard to spot without specific blood tests by competent specialists.  What does fiber have to do with it?

The way we digest nutrients through the digestive tract is complex.  Certain areas absorb more than others, and specific positions will uptake specific vitamins and minerals.  One area may absorb magnesium from the food, while one for calcium, potassium, vitamin A, you name it and there's a spot for it.

What happens when the movement isn't smooth, and food doesn't make it all the way through?  Or what happens if undigested processed foods are blocking that specific position of absorption?  You won't get the nutrients, its pretty simple.  If undigested hunks of meat or piles of rotting sugar are clogging the area and stuck to the walls, its not good.  

And deficiencies are the root cause (in my opinion) for most diseases.  They also hinder muscle growth and fat loss, and they mess with hormones and screw up the works.  Not good.

Practical Solutions

If you're thinking you just need to add more fiber to you're diet, and you're probably right about that, you are still only partway there.  Fiber is just one tool in the arsenal of superhealth, but its not enough on its own!  Here's the key points to remember with fiber:

- Eating raw vegetables is great and all, but its not advisable to start adding 40 grams of raw veggies straight into the diet if you are scarcely eating fiber now.  Add slowly and let your digestive tract "catch up" over a few weeks.

- You don't have to eat raw veggies to get the fiber.  Steaming broccoli and asparagus is great, and it is also a little easier for the digestive tract to handle.

- It doesn't have to be bland.  We've all been at that point where we were like "**ck it" and just started piling raw broccoli and cauliflower onto our plates and choking it down in the name of gains.  You can add fiber to meals by slicing and dicing, or throwing them into stews and soups which is great during cold winters.  

- Good sources of fiber are greens, seedy fruits like strawberries and kiwi, beans (not overcooked to mush), peas, even some quality non-gmo corn.  Oatmeal is a great go to if you don't have much time, but add some protein to balance out the carbohydrates.

- You can eat almost limitless amounts of these foods in your diet, provided you don't go for the cheap stuff like taco bell beans

- You must increase fluid intake according to fiber intake, if you eat lots of fiber and are dehydrated you are setting yourself up for stomach cramps and more constipation.

Do it for your body, do it because it helps detox and keep you healthy.  Eat your fiber.

Ben Hetzel

Nutrition Specialist