by Tara Postnikoff
Consuming dietary fibre will help runners have regular daily bowel movements. Fibre can help normalize bowel movements and provides the bulk to keep them well-formed (not too loose and not too hard).
What foods contain fibre?
Fibre is a component of carbohydrates that provides little caloric value or energy as it passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. It is commonly found in the skins of fruits and vegetables and the outer coat of grains, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds. One of the main benefits of fibre is promoting a healthy colon and good intestinal function. Fibre also helps with the elimination of waste products from the body and promotes a healthy gut biome by giving the “good” gut bacteria something to feed on.
There are two types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre helps maintain regular bowel movements and is found in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and wheat bran. Soluble fibre can help keep you feeling full longer, control blood sugar levels by decreasing the speed at which sugars are absorbed into the system and can help lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre is found in oats, apples, carrots, beans and lentils.
How much fibre do I need?
Consumption of fibre has decreased over the years, as our diets have become more reliant on processed and refined foods. Adults should aim to consume between 35 to 50 grams of fibre per day, but many of us consume less than 20 grams daily. If you are trying to increase your fibre intake, start slowly, because too much fibre too soon can lead to increased gas or abdominal discomfort. Increasing your water intake will also help ensure your bowel movements are soft and easy to pass.
While fibre is important in the daily diet, runners should be aware that high-fibre foods are not ideal to consume immediately before or after exercise. Fibre slows down digestion and absorption of fuel into the body and will delay access to energy or quick replacement of nutrients to the muscles. Additionally, too much fibre can lead to increased motility of the intestine or irritation of the gut, which isn’t ideal before a training run or a race.
Tara Postnikoff is a Registered Nutritional Consultant, certified Personal Trainer and triathlon/running coach in Toronto. She is an avid distance runner and triathlete, and a regular guest speaker for Running Room training programs. To learn more, visit her website at www.heal-nutrition.com.