Think About WHEN You Eat Not Just What You Eat!
Everybody talks a lot about what you should eat. The nutritional advice and information out there is overwhelming and almost every week a new study or research paper is published. This research undoubtedly contradicts the latest nutritional advice! How the hell are we meant to know what to eat?
Maybe it is worth taking a look at a different strategy, maybe we should focus on when we eat instead of what we eat?
Intermittent fasting is something I have been doing for a while now and once I got my head around it, it became habitual and a very enjoyable routine. I was always one of those people who went to bed thinking about breakfast, I used to love breakfast, sometimes I would even have it twice! Usually not the most nutritious meal, sugary cereal or toast, maybe even a crumpet or a bacon sandwich. However, my habits changed when I realised that breakfast may not actually be the most important meal of the day! I found out that this myth was actually very clever marketing from lobbyists like the big cereal and bacon companies (take a look at this article by the guardian). Maybe eating cereal wasn’t the best way to start my day! Actually there is no maybe about it! It is not.
So back to the research, more and more studies are now being published to confirm that when you eat is just as important as what you eat! Intermittent fasting or time restricted eating is now becoming a main stream solution and it makes sense. A lot of sense!
The idea is that we have evolved as humans to survive periods of food excess and food scarcity. In modern times we live in an era of overabundance, it is all about convenience and we can grab food whenever we need it. We can eat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if we wish!
By looking at when we eat and restricting our eating periods we can try and mimic the evolutionary change from which our biology has evolved. It is not hard to do and you are not going to starve! Initially, I thought I would really struggle not to eat breakfast, but by skipping breakfast and eating just my lunch (I usually have a kind of brunch) and dinner I realised I wasn’t actually that hungry and I had way more energy in the morning as well as being able to focus. I didn’t start my day with a sugar hit and then the inevitable slump at mid morning where I would be reaching for another snack. I saved time, I was more productive and my energy levels stabilised.
By integrating periods of fasting into your day you reap benefits such as burning stored body fat for energy, feeling less hungry and improving your overall health. Let’s look at some of the benefits:
Around 4-5 hours after we finish eating our insulin (a hormone we produce to lower blood sugar) levels fall as the carbohydrates and sugar we have consumed have been stored or used. When we enter a fasted state the body then starts to burn fat for energy instead of glucose (sugar). When we are eating our bodies just use the glucose (sugar) from the food but once we stop eating and we enter into a fasted state our bodies move from burning carbohydrate (sugar) for fuel and start to use fat as an energy source.
Fasting allows your body the opportunity to use fat for fuel. Consistent snacking or ‘on the go’ eating when we are living a busy lifestyle means our body just uses sugar for fuel and fat (our back up fuel) is just stored and never used!
Fasting is an amazing weight loss tool as it allows your body to use fat for fuel and uses this back up energy source that our body has been storing for us for times when food is scarce! Fasting is being used more and more to support the treatments of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, used to reduce the amount of visceral fat (this is dangerous fat stored around our organs and waist) as well as heart disease, some cancers and Alzeheimer’s.
Improved Energy Levels
Processed and refined foods, such as the breakfast cereal I was consuming, give you a quick short spike in energy, a spike that gets your blood sugars up until you quickly crash again and you feel like you need to reach for caffeine, sugary snacks or refined carbohydrates to get your energy back. You need more food as a fuel to provide your body with energy!
Have you ever felt that lethargic feeling after eating a meal? That is because digestion takes up a lot of energy and you have to allow your body the time to digest all the food you have eaten. You feel sleepy and sluggish. Fasting however means you free up that energy in the morning that would usually be spent digesting all your food. That energy is used to power the brain and your muscles, adding to increased levels of concentration and energy to get tasks done.
For anybody who has a diet high in processed and refined food and drink, your body is constantly working to respond to your high blood sugar by secreting the hormone insulin to bring your blood sugar levels back down. Think of insulin like a drug, at first your body only needs a little to bring the blood sugar levels down but then you need more and more to have the same effect and this can lead to something called insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a causal factor of Pre-diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, heart disease and many other diseases that are becoming more and more prevalent today. If we constantly eat we are forcing our bodies to keep releasing insulin, fasting however provides our body with a break, a rest and reduces the need for our body to keep releasing insulin. It allows our bodies to become more insulin sensitive as we reduce the amount of blood sugar fluctuations.
Reduction in Hunger Levels
So this probably makes absolutely no sense to you right now! I agree, in principle it sounds completely wrong, how do you stop eating for a period of time and reduce your hunger levels? Well, let’s take a deeper look.
At first you will be hungry, you will probably think about food, your stomach will rumble and your body will wonder why you have not had your 7am bowl of cereal. However, once we get over the initial period of change you will start to think about eating less and less. Fasting helps to normalise your hunger hormones, these are little dudes called Ghrelin, as well as your hunger suppressant hormones; little dudes called Leptin. Fasting allows you to normalise Ghrelin and Leptin so you are empowered and feel only real hunger in the 24 hour period. You will get your body into a new routine, a routine where you eat when you need to and not because you think you need to!
Human Growth Hormone
Growth hormone is secreted when you sleep and along with hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin it increases blood glucose by breaking down glycogen countering the effect of insulin. Growth hormone is usually secreted just before waking in the early hours of the morning to help your body to wake up and get ready to take on the day, allowing your body to have energy ready to burn as it has taken the glucose out of storage.
When the big cereal companies pushed the importance of breakfast to sell their products they didn’t do it based on any science. Your body has completed the process you need to fuel you up for the day ahead, so you don’t need a big sugary bowl of cereal to fuel your morning. This is why hunger is lowest in the morning, your body is all over it, it has your back! You don’t need to eat breakfast.
So how do you get started?
Well before you do anything you need to take a look at your diet and try to reduce the refined and processed food you consume. If it was made in a factory steer clear! You want to eat as naturally as possible, cooking your own food from scratch, less packets of food and no grabbing a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar.
Once you have cleaned up your diet, start with a 12 hour eating window. Have your first meal at 8am and then finish you final meal by 8pm. This will help you to get started. Once you are happy you can start to push your first meal of the day back to lunchtime or late morning, extending the fasting period from the time you stop eating the night before to the moment you break your fast. Aim for a 16 hour fast which means you will eat all your meals within an 8 hour window.
For more information and to chat through this topic drop me a message or an email, I would love to support you on your journey to optimal health!