First, let’s talk about why your kid needs fiber.
Have you, or your kid, ever tried to play through a cramp or abdominal discomfort? There are enough things to worry about in the middle of a game, and these should not be one of them. By befriending fiber, these will be things that you do have to worry about in the middle of a game.
What Is Fiber?
You can’t fully digest fiber, but the bacteria in your gut can. This means that the energy you get from fiber does not directly turn into the energy to help you perform on the field. Instead, it turns into energy that helps you digest the food that will help you perform on the field. In other words, without help from our new friend, fiber, your body will not create fuel from food as effectively as it can.
Additionally, fiber is a carbohydrate. It is found in complex carbohydrates, the ones that are harder to break down and give you long lasting energy like whole grains, beans, squashes, and potatoes. It is not found in simple carbohydrates that give you quick energy like sugar, although some fresh fruit is a good source of fiber (which we will discuss soon).
Fiber is also important because it helps your gastrointestinal tract stay in check. This is important because it helps ensure that you do not have a cramp in the middle of a game. As mentioned earlier, you have enough things to worry about during a game, some out of your control. Having adequate fiber is something that you can control, so you should not have to worry about it mid-game.
Another reason it is important to keep your gastrointestinal tract in check is that your gut, where fiber is digested, is your second brain. Without adequate fiber intake, chemicals in your gut and your brain will not communicate effectively. This can lead to general anxiety, performance anxiety, mental fatigue and brain fog, and other things that will hinder your mental cognition on and off the field.
How Much Fiber?
Now back to the original question, how much fiber does your kid need? Too little fiber will affect your ability to turn food into fuel. This can cause indigestion, inflammation, lack of satiation, and a weakened immune system. Too much fiber could cause us to experience systems such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea, fluctuated sugar levels, and stomach discomfort. It’s important to keep this in mind if you are currently not getting enough fiber so that you do not add too much at once.
What is the friendly Goldilocks amount of fiber? (speaking of Goldilocks, oatmeal is a decent source of fiber, but we’ll get to that shortly) Adolescent females need about 25 grams of fiber, and adolescent males need about 31 grams of fiber. Another source recommends a bit higher levels and says that adolescent girls aged 9-13 need about 26 grams of fiber and adolescent boys aged 14-19 is 38 grams.
Where To Get Fiber?
Now that we know what fiber is, and how much we need, let’s discuss where to get fiber. First, fiber should come from real whole foods, rather than supplements. Real, whole foods with good fiber sources are generally fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, starches, and whole grains.
Here are several foods that are fiber friendly:
- Raspberries – 1 cup has 8 grams of fiber
- 1 pear has 5.5 grams of fiber
- 1 apple has 4.5 grams of fiber
- 1 orange has 2-3 grams of fiber
- 1 banana has 3 grams of fiber
- Green peas – 1 cup has 9 grams of fiber
- Broccoli – 1 cup has 5 grams of fiber
- Brussel sprouts – 1 cup has 4 grams of fiber
- 1 potato has 4 grams of fiber
- Whole wheat pasta – 1 cup has 6
- Quinoa – 1 cup has 5
- Oatmeal – 1 serving has 4-5 grams of fiber
- Air popped popcorn – 1 serving has 3.5
- Brown rice – 1 cup has 3.5 grams of fiber
- Lentils – 1 cup has 15.5 grams of fiber
- Black beans – 1 cup has 15.5 grams of fiber
- Pistachio nuts – 1 oz = 3 grams
- Almonds – 1 oz = 3.5 oz
When To Eat Fiber?
We covered who (fiber), what (complex carbohydrate), where (see list above), and why (digestion and gut health), so lastly, let’s talk about when. As far as when to eat fiber, it is not best to load up on fiber right before a game or practice. Since fiber does not get digested but helps digest, this may cause GI distress. A better time to eat fiber would be the night before an event.
However, making sure you get enough fiber is not something you think about doing the night before a game. Eating for performance, including making sure you get enough fiber, is a year-round lifestyle. It includes developing good habits. Developing a habit for your kid to be friends with fiber at an early age will help their long term development.