Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Part 6: Fiber, Protein, Fat, and Meal Timing

Part 6: Fiber, Protein, Fat, and Meal Timing

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found within foods such as oatmeal, barley, chicory root, bananas, psyllium husk, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables, acts by drawing water into your GI tract, forming a gel like substance that slows down your digestion. This can help to soften your stool, slow down digestion, increase satiety (keep you full), reduce your blood sugar response to a meal, and aid in binding excess cholesterol, bile acids, and estrogen in your gut. These benefits may help in lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and estrogen dominance. It has been shown that the intake of soluble fiber can help to lower A1C levels in type 2 diabetics, reduce blood sugar response to meals, and lower LDL (aka bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. Soluble fiber is also mostly highly fermentable, aka gas producing. This is why “too much fiber” can cause you to be gassy and bloated, as the fiber contributes to fermentation and gas production in your GI tract. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat products, nuts, beans, brown rice, and various different vegetables such as cauliflower, green peas, leafy greens, and prunes. Unlike its sister fiber, it does not dissolve in water, hence “insoluble”- not soluble in water. Instead of slowing down digestion and drawing water into the stool, insoluble fiber works by adding bulk to the stool, allowing for faster transit time and helping to prevent and treat constipation. It has little effect on satiety markers (feeling of fullness) and most forms are poorly fermented, however this is not always the case (and keep this in mind). Essentially what this means for you is that you should be focusing on consuming most of the grains that you eat as whole grains. Make sure to read labels and don’t fall for marketing gimmicks of “made with whole grain” or “multigrain.” The food industry will prey on your confusion. To avoid insulin resistance and enhance insulin sensitivity, you should consume a balance of healthy, whole grains or complex carbohydrates, avoid constantly spiking your insulin (aka no snacking all day), and focus on lifestyle and exercise techniques such as incorporating resistance training, cardio, and your NEAT levels in order to enhance insulin sensitivity. 

Amino Acids:

Tryptophan: a precursor to serotonin and epinephrine- low amounts can affect mood and increase risk of depression. If low, sleep may also be hindered. 

Tyrosine: a precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine and is required for the creation of thyroid hormone. Too little tyrosine can lead to hypothyroidism or cause adrenal imbalances and an insufficient stress response. Dopamine helps to control memory, thought, and emotions and is heavily linked to the reward systems in your brain. Low tyrosine and low dopamine can increase risk of Parkinson’s disease. 

Arginine: forms nitric oxide and citrulline in the body which is required for the maintenance of your blood pressure, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and vasoconstriction and dilation of your smooth muscle cells. Arginine is a common amino acid consumed by bodybuilders or weight training to help increase cellular swelling, producing a “pump” in the gym. 

Glutamine: the most abundant amino acid that serves as a metabolic fuel for your immune cells and gut cells. Glutamine supplementation can be beneficial for enhancing recovery from an injury or poor gut health, as it helps to maintain a healthy gut lining. Glutamate: an excitatory amino acid and major brain neurotransmitter that is important for brain development and memory. It serves as a precursor to GABA in the body. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that plays major roles in brain cell communication, cognition, the stress response, and fear/anxiety. 

More on Protein:

In general, you want to focus on consuming protein that has: A high biological value, essentially, this marker reflects how readily a consumed protein can be used for protein synthesis. High protein digestibility, aka the protein is able to be digested, broken down into amino acids, and used. If you can’t digest it, you can’t use it. Animal-based proteins have the highest digestibility (90-99%), with plant sources falling short (60-80% depending on type). This is because plants contain fiber and “anti-nutrients” such as phytates and tannins that can inhibit digestion and absorption. Good news, cooking can help reduce these anti-nutrients, however it doesn’t fully eliminate them and doesn’t impact the fiber content. Plant-based protein powders tend to have a higher digestibility in relation to the whole food based plant protein itself, as the anti-nutrients are mostly removed. For example, pea and brown rice blend protein can stimulate MPS (muscle protein synthesis) just as much as whey protein. All needed amino acids. Though you can simulate MPS and get protein from vegan or vegetarian sources that may not have all amino acids, ensuring to get multiple sources throughout the day to ensure daily consumption of all amino acids is important. Why? If your body needs an amino acid and can’t get it from the diet, it will take it from the organs and tissues in your body. This means you break down body tissue to make new proteins. This is where consuming multiple sources of protein with vegan or vegetarian diets becomes even more crucial. Hormones that increase protein synthesis include: insulin, growth hormone, and testosterone. Hormones that decrease or halt protein synthesis include: glucagon, catecholamines (including cortisol), glucocorticoids, and thyroid hormone. Adequate protein intake can ensure sufficient dietary amino acids to help regulate the immune system, fight off infections, and plays a critical role in DNA creation and repair. DNA damage and oxidative stress can contribute to cancer proliferation. Don’t skimp on your protein- skimp on the lies the media tells you. 


During exercise, fats are your primary energy source during low-intensity activities or when your heart rate is approximately less than 70%. However again, just because you use fat, does not mean that you will lose fat. Fat loss requires a caloric deficit. Omega-3 fats help to reduce inflammation, support healthy hormones, and maintain cell membrane integrity. They have been shown to help reduce pain, aid in recovery, and even reduce symptoms of PMS and arthritis. Omega-3s help produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE1) that can help to combat inflammation in your body! This is why they can be highly beneficial in chronic inflammatory conditions and diseases. The 3 types of Omega-3 fatty acids include: ALA (alpha linolenic acid)- found in plant-based foods such as flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts. ALA can convert to EPA and DHA in the body. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)- found in fish oil and fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and herring

-These omega-3s (as well as omega-6s) are essential to your body. You have to consume them in your diet or your health will take a hit. Cue PMS problems, chronic pain, and increased risk of illness and infection. Vegans and vegetarians need to be super careful here, as the conversion of ALA to EPA or DHA is limited. Omega-6 fats also help to support your hormones and regulate inflammation. However, not all omega-6 fats are created equal. Highly refined processed vegetable oil and omega-6 based fats can easily become rancid and oxidize in your body, leading to chronic inflammation and tissue damage. Unlike omega-3s, they produce proinflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2). Chronic inflammation greatly increases your risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, fibromyalgia, and cancer. Chronic inflammation also spells a recipe for disaster on your hormones, mood, and pain levels. Examples of omega-6s to avoid include: corn, soybean, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed and sunflower oils, they are commonly used by restaurants to cook (as they are cheap) and within packaged foods. Omega-6s to include: coconut, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, evening primrose oil, and borage oil. Monounsaturated fats: These contain one double bond in their structure. Examples include: olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and olives. Monounsaturated fats may help to decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), as they can help to increase good HDL cholesterol levels. Saturated Fats: These contain no double bonds in their structure and are solid at room temperature. Their skeletal carbon chains are “saturated” with hydrogens, allowing them to easily stack on top of each other in your tissues. Examples include: animal meats, egg yolks, coconut oil, dairy products, lard, and palm oil.

Meal Timing:

While meal timing may only have a small impact on your physique, it can have a big impact on your energy levels, gym performance, and blood sugar regulation. Meal timing is of utmost importance when it comes down to training performance, especially in the case for endurance training and team sports. However, since most people are not marathon runners or football players, the focus is on practical meal timing strategies for the everyday person. Poor meal timing can leave you with imbalanced blood sugar, low energy levels, poor adherence due to insatiable hunger, and increase your risk of overeating and binge eating. The goal is to provide a steady source of fuel for your body and brain throughout the day, optimize muscle protein synthesis for building or preserving muscle, and prevent rapid spikes and dips in your blood sugar, which can influence your hormonal and adrenal health.

Remember these facts when planning out pre and post workout meals: 

If you eat within a few hours pre workout: muscle protein synthesis is STILL elevated right when you finish, so getting in your protein immediately post workout isn’t necessary. You won’t lose your gains. Your pre workout meal may just be a pre workout snack, and that’s okay. Your pre workout helps to fuel for energy, stabilize your blood sugar, and preserve your muscles. Find a meal or snack that you enjoy, that digests well, and helps you feel your best when training. Protein’s goal: spike muscle protein synthesis, aid in growth and recovery, preserve lean muscle tissue and build new muscle tissue.

Carb’s goal: immediate energy for training, fills glycogen stores (which are not fully depleted post workout if you’re just lifting, they are for endurance training), cause insulin spike, and help to reduce cortisol.

Fat’s goal: slower digesting form of energy; helps to stabilize and prevent the blood sugar response to a carbohydrate; and slows digestion when added to a protein or carbohydrate (which may or may not impact your digestion in a pre workout meal).