A lack of protein does not cause constipation -- when you are working out or otherwise. It's a lack of fiber that can cause constipation. According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber deficiency can be the result of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets often implemented in conjunction with specific workout routines.
1. Fiber and Protein
According to the American Diabetes Association, fiber is the third most prevalent type of carbohydrate -- after sugars and starches. Fiber is necessary for digestive health and is found strictly in plant-based foods, which means consuming only the lean meats associated with high-protein, low-carb diets can hinder bowel movements. While protein alone has little effect on digestion, it is essential for muscle growth, which is especially important for working out. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, unlike fiber, protein can come not only from plant-based foods such as legumes and nuts but also dairy products and meat.
2. Striking Balance
To avoid constipation, achieving the right balance of fiber and protein is key. The CDC recommends that 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein. For average women, that's 46 grams of protein per day, and for men, it's 56 grams. If you're working out regularly, eating and burning more calories, you may need a little more. However, since protein is found in so many foods, the CDC cautions that most people already get more than they need. For optimum digestive health, the American Dietetic Association recommends that women consume 25 grams of fiber daily and that men get 38 grams. Those figures are considerably higher than the 15 daily grams the ADA says the average American actually gets, so it's no wonder most people face constipation at some point.
3. Constipation and Women
According to the website Family Doctor, normal bowel movement frequency can range from three times a day to three times a week. If you fall below that, you're likely to feel a little uncomfortable. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that women are three times more likely than men to experience constipation. The AAFP says women's bowel movements take longer, and many women experience constipation during their menstrual cycle. Along with sufficient fiber intake, drinking enough water and exercising regularly also prompt regular bowel movements.
4. Other Benefits of Fiber
According to the American Dietetic Association, populations that consume more dietary fiber have less chronic disease. The Mayo Clinic confirms that high-fiber diets can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. And if your chronic health isn't a good enough reason to seek out a high-fiber diet, consider this: the ADA also says that high-fiber diets are more satisfying and linked to lower body weight. The Mayo Clinic explains that in addition to keeping you fuller longer, high-fiber foods take longer to chew, allowing more time for your stomach to tell your brain that it's full, which helps you eat less overall.
5. Finding Fiber
Despite the fact that most American diets fall short when it comes to fiber, there are plenty of foods chock full of it. If dried prunes and figs aren't your favorite snack -- and they do pack a fiber-filled punch -- there are other options. An American Dietetic Association chart lists fruits such as strawberries, pears, oranges and vegetables including split peas, kidney beans and spinach as fiber filled. Grains, such as raisin bran and brown rice, are another great source of fiber. Before changing your diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. Family Doctor recommends that you see a doctor if constipation that is new or unusual for you occurs.
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber
- American Family Physician: Diagnostic Approach to Chronic Constipation in Adults
- FamilyDoctor.org: Constipation
- Mayo Clinic: Nutrition and Healthy Eating
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrates
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
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