Fibre: The Perfect Gym Food

Fibre: The Perfect Gym Food

In my last few posts I have been discussing fibre, the benefits of getting enough, the potential disadvantages of getting too much and how to make sure you are getting enough.  Today, I’m going to explain why I think fibre is the perfect gym food and why you should consider making it part of your pre-workout meal.

Personally, I never was one of the those people who enjoyed drinking high sugar sports drinks before working out.  I don’t particularly like the taste and I didn’t notice a significant energy boost after drinking them.  On top of this they’re not cheap and can actually be quite dehydrating, so I instead opted to drink water whilst working out and eat a meal beforehand.  The foods I ate as part of my pre-workout meals have changed over the years.  I’ve experimented with plain chicken breasts, a huge plate of pasta and even some pretty disgusting meal replacement shakes which upon purchase I discovered were so full of sugar that they were almost undrinkable.  However, after a few years of experimentation I’ve finally settled with a light, fibre rich snack as my perfect pre-workout meal.  This will usually be a couple of sandwiches (filled with chicken, ham, beef, peanut butter or whatever else I decide to put on them) on whole grain bread or a large banana.  But why do I think these foods are perfect for pre-gym consumption?  Read on to find out:

1) SLOW RELEASE ENERGY:- Consuming carbohydrates that are high in soluble fibre allows the energy from the food to be released more slowly.  Although in previous articles I have listed whole grain bread as a good source of insoluble fibre it does contain soluble fibre too.  Bananas are also a rich source of soluble fibre.  Eating either of these before hitting the gym means that the energy from the food is released evenly throughout your workout allowing you to maintain consistent energy levels for the full time you are at the gym.

I found that when I used to eat white pasta before the gym I had to eat lots to give me energy.  Doing this made me start to feel drowsy towards the end of my workout.  The reason behind this is that white pasta is relatively low in fibre and so the energy from the food is released into the blood much more quickly.  Whilst it is great to have this energy surge at the start of the workout it does not last for the entirety of your workout meaning that your performance usually suffers towards the end.

2) SUPPRESSED APPETITE:- One of the biggest distractions at the gym for me is when my stomach starts rumbling and I start getting hunger pangs.  If this happens at any other time during the day I can usually ignore them and get on with what I’m doing.  However, when I’m at the gym I find them unbearable.  Ever since I started eating a light, fibre rich snack before hitting the gym I have never felt hungry whilst working out.  This is despite the fact that the snack is only light with the sandwiches containing a maximum of 250 calories and a large banana containing a maximum of 150 calories.

Now part of the reason for this is that around the same time I introduced fibre into my diet I started eating mini-meals which means that I rarely go more than three hours without food.  However, another reason is that fibre is an effective appetite suppressant.  Insoluble fibre soaks up water and expands in the digestive tract and helps to fill your stomach whilst soluble fibre holds food in your digestive tract for longer.  Therefore, although these fibre rich snacks are lower in calories than the meals I was eating previously they are a lot more filling which means I can get on with my workout without any distracting hunger pangs.

3) FAT LOSS:- Since my fibre rich snacks are relatively low in calories and allow sugar to be released into the blood more slowly and evenly, they create a perfect scenario for burning fat.  Why?  Well I’ll begin with an extremely simplified explanation of how the body burns fat.  When we eat the body converts the food into glucose/sugar.  This sugar is then released into the bloodstream.  As blood sugar levels rise this prompts the release of insulin into the bloodstream (although this function is inhibited in people with diabetes).  Insulin then binds with the body’s cells and allows them to absorb blood sugar.  Upon absorbing blood sugar the body’s cells either use it for energy (if required) or store it as fat (if not required immediately).  When blood sugar levels are low and the body’s cells need energy they then start to use stored fat as their energy source.

When you exercise your body requires more energy so it will use either sugar (if your blood sugar levels are high) or fat (if your blood sugar levels are low).  If you eat a low fibre meal that releases lots of sugar into the bloodstream all at once (such as white pasta) then your blood sugar levels will be elevated during your workout.  This means that your cells will use blood sugar for energy whilst also storing some of it as fat because there is too much in the bloodstream to use all at once.  If you eat a fibre rich snack that releases less sugar into the bloodstream at a more gradual rate then your blood sugar levels will be lower during your workout.  This means that your body will use the blood sugar for energy first but then start to burn fat because there is not enough sugar in the blood at any one time to meet the body’s energy requirements.  Eating fibre rich foods can stimulate a greater fat burning effect than low fibre foods at any time but this effect is magnified when you workout because your body needs more energy.

There are many food choices available to you as a pre-gym meal.  However, if you haven’t already tried it I highly recommended that you experiment with fibre rich snacks as your pre-gym food.  I think you will quickly find that you have more energy throughout your workout and will be able to stay much more focussed.  In the long term you should also notice an improvement in your body fat levels.

What do you guys eat as a pre-gym snack?  Do you agree with my recommendation of fibre rich foods?  Do you have any alternate suggestions?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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Comments

  1. says

    Fibre is so important for us and most people’s diets of fast and junk food just don’t give them enough. Another benefit is that it helps get the plaque off your teeth, and since heart disease is linked to tooth plaque, eating more fibre is a win-win situation!

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  2. says

    I have always heard to eat a lot of fiber but to be honest I had no idea what the difference was. I am excited to check out the vegetarian chinese cookbook!

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  3. says

    No I didn’t know about the differences either Heidi. But then again that’s one of the benefits of running this blog. I can find out about all the different nutrients and then convert the information into informative posts such as this one :-)

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  4. pete says

    i never eat before going to the gym so the body fat must get used all the time and i go to the gym everyday i lost 3stone in3 months by doing this

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  5. says

    Hi Pete – I have read a lot of comments from people who do not eat before going to the gym and they all say that it really helps them burn fat. The reason I always have something to eat before going to the gym is that I sometimes get really bad hunger pangs when I am there. These hunger pangs can be very distracting and stop me getting a good workout. However, I could try and gradually wean myself of the pre-gym snacks and then see what results I get.

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  6. cherry regidor says

    hi just want to ask..my diet is like this pls help me why i didnt lose wght until now for a year..i had porridge & honey with lowfat soya..lunch vegtable and mash potatoe small portion and meat,i eat fish twice a week, and my dinner is very light like whole grain bread with tomatoe,cucumber and lettuce alternate with cereal..but stll im not losing weight..pls help me..

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    Tom Reply:

    Hi Cherry. Your diet sounds quite healthy to me and relatively low in calories. If you are eating these kind of meals consistently then I doubt there is any need for you to lose weight. Perhaps you are at a healthy weight already

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  7. Will says

    Sugar is NOT stored as fat.

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    Tom Reply:

    Excess sugar is first stored as glycogen for quick release. However, if it is not needed immediately it gets stored as fat. THerefore, sugar can be stored as fat.

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  8. Axl says

    What is the disadvantage/s of eating too much chicken? ( grilled checken- no skin ). Thanks

    axl

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    Tom Reply:

    Hey Axl. I’m not sure what the specific disadvantages of eating too much chicken are. However, chicken is a high protein food so overconsumption would lead to many of the disadvantages associated with eating too much protein. These include dehydration and osteoporosis. You can read the full list by clicking the text and reading my article. Hope this helps.

    Tom

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  9. says

    Great post and I love your speed up your metabolism post as well. I always learn something from you and your blog looks incredible!

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    Tom Reply:

    Thanks Heidi. I like your blog too. Glad to have a fellow fitness blogger appreciating my articles :-)

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