For this final installment of the “What do you Eat?” series I thought we’d explore something that I see discussed quite a bit online and in gyms. Many Americans are not eating enough during the day. We consume enough food, in fact too much more often than not. What I mean is that we split our food consumption up into three meals instead of the six or more that promotes a steady metabolic burn. Most of us were raised on the three meals a day routine and indeed it seems to go back as far as anyone can remember. Historically speaking though mankind adopted this routine fairly recently. For most of our history we were hunters and gatherers eating and snacking as we moved through the day. In a world where human beings were just another menu selection for the top predators of the day stopping to eat was not smart or efficient. It’s not healthy either.
To lose weight and maintain a fit and trim figure you must keep your metabolism burning at a steady rate. Unfortunately when we separate our meals into breakfast, lunch, and dinner we fill our day with small cycles of starvation. Deprived of a steady source of fuel every few hours our bodies slow down and our metabolism stalls to conserve energy. With our busy work schedules it might be six or more hours between meals sometimes even eight. By the time we do eat our stomachs are not just growling but threatening to eat our spines. We are famished and we eat like it; devouring everything in sight.
Eating more often may sound contradictory to good diet and eating habits. The trick though is not only to eat more often but to carefully plan and regulate what you eat and when. You need to space your total calorie intake for one day across a twelve-hour span, starting out with a high protein meal for breakfast to ignite your metabolism and fuel the day. Two to three hours later eat a snack with plenty of fiber and another small dose of protein from cheese, nuts, or even a protein shake. I no longer eat lunch per say but break it down into two small meals two hours apart, usually one at eleven then another at one. Come 4pm, I am ready for another snack. Then I eat my dinner at seven. Sometimes I also eat a small serving of yogurt and granola right before bed. Usually we are told not to eat before bed but I find this small snack keeps me from waking up too early famished and starving, which is important to me because my first work out of the day is cardio; done on an empty stomach.
I do this to encourage my body to burn stored body fat for fuel. Most people do not realize that while you sleep your body is going through an active period of recovery and rebuilding. By morning it has consumed most of the protein and carbohydrates that it took in during the previous day and is running on near empty. To fuel my workouts each morning my body must turn to the body fat I have for energy. If you are trying to actively lose body fat I would recommend you do the same first thing each morning. Keep your workout intense and don’t go for more than an hour though. If you also plan on doing a strength workout that day, wait a few hours or do it in the evening when you are fresh and your muscles fueled and ready.
Though I may not eat before I run, I do go out of my way to ensure I am properly hydrated before I even lace up my shoes. Besides burning most of the food you eat the day before each night, your body also uses up most of the fluid you drank too. In short by the time you wake up you are dehydrated. Your muscles and blood are dying of thirst and you must fill them before you do anything else. I cannot stress this enough! Before you leave the house or even get dressed drink a glass of water. You need more water. I am willing to bet even as you read this article that your body is dehydrated. If your urine is not clear when you pee then you are dehydrated! Drink more water!
Dehydration causes high blood pressure, brain overheating, cramping, and poor muscular performance. In a previous article I told you to avoid soda and other drinks. Besides the sugar contained in these beverages most also contain caffeine; a diuretic. In short this substance causes you to urinate more and flushes water from the body. While a small dose of caffeine such as in a cup of coffee or tea can be beneficial to your body and even your health, there comes a point when too much can cause injury through dehydration and erratic heartbeat.
I love coffee folks anyone who knows me knows that I have an addiction. Even I think I drink too much, and some days I feel it. Limit your intake of caffeinated drinks and increase the amount of water you drink. Your body will thank you.
While we’re talking about drinks let’s talk about another favorite of mine; beer. This is another case where a little is actually good for you and a lot can kill you. Alcohol is another natural diuretic. Hangovers are caused by dehydration need I say more. A beer or two a day is actually good for you but any more than that and you’re tipping the balance. Besides the alcohol, many people simply forget that beer is full of empty calories that are nothing more than simple sugars and end up being stored in your body as fat. Even a six-pack of light beer can contain more than 600 calories, that’s nearly a quarter of your whole calorie intake for the day. Combine that with bar food and snacks and one evening’s worth of good time can add up to over 3000 calories. Do that enough times in a month and it will derail even the best laid workout and diet. Moderation is your friend, be smart and think before you drink. If you’re going to have a beer, make it a dark one and keep it to one or two at most. Dark beers have the highest concentration of anti-oxidants and beneficial compounds but are higher in calories than most other styles.
So let’s review. Stop eating three meals a day and break it up into six or more. Your biggest meal should be breakfast and it needs to have a large proportion of protein in it and a little healthy fat. Eat Snack/meals at 9am, 11am, and 1pm; again, high fiber to fill you up and a little protein. These snacks should stay under 200 calories each. Eat another snack at 4 pm then a good dinner at 7pm containing lots of fiber, protein and a portion of healthy fats. In my usual day I consume about 2000 calories most of that being protein. Most days I like to make my 9am, and 4pm snack a protein shake to ensure I am getting enough to fuel the muscle growth I desire. I also try to fit vegetables and whole grains into my snack and dinner. These fill you up and keep hunger pains from taking over. We need to be avoiding added sugars and simple carbohydrates. Protein and fiber are our friends with some good healthy natural fats mixed in so we can make the hormones we need to function. Limit the caffeine intake and keep the alcohol to a minimum. I know this is a brief look at something that could fill a book but I hope it is enough to start you off in the right direction.