Within the mainstream health and dieting media there are advocates of eating every 2-3 hours. Well the bodybuilders do that and that’s what it says to do in the fitness magazine or what my gym “nutritionist” or “trainer” says to do so it must be right and I’ve gotta do it that way right? Wrong!!! In fact, eating 5-6 small meals a day is something that most people should not be doing and let alone neither have time for. The reason most people should not be eating this way is due to hormones within our bodies- mainly the direct effects that insulin has on us.
To put is both plainly and bluntly, when we eat often we store fat often. Our bodies use food in one of two ways: fat or fuel. If we need to use what we consume as fuel because we are actively exercising or laboring (mall power shopping comes a close third, but I’d say doesn’t count in this regard) then we will use it; however if we are not doing that then we will be storing it as fat.
Here’s a quick video from Brad Pilon, of Eat Stop Eat, explaining when we eat how our insulin spikes in relation to the type of food we eat, protein foods included.
If you don’t know what the heck insulin is or does, besides just knowing it’s important and something diabetics need to pay attention to allow me to very quickly run through it. In a nutshell, insulin is the hormone released from thepancreas to regulate blood sugar. It is the most anabolic hormone in the body. That essentially means that it directly assists in the building of tissues. This is done by the glycogen storage perpetuated by insulin into muscles and the liver. Insulin is also the hormone that directly causes you to store fat. Whenever insulin is spiked you will be storing fat to some degree unless your body is in a state where you are using that energy. Most of the time when we are eating, and shortly after eating, we are not too active to use food as energy right away so therefore it gets stored on us for later. That’s what fat essentially is: stored energy for later.
The Kyoto University “Effects of High Protein Diet on Insulin and Glucagon Secretions” is one study that you can read which goes into much greater detail than this: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/reprint/112/4/681.pdf
There are diets published which advocate low carb eating and high protein consumption. These diets are certainly not immune to the fat storing effects of insulin. In fact proteins, if carbohydrates are not being consumed in high enough amounts, will indeed be broken down in order to be stored as fat.
During the digestion process protein foods are broken down into amino acids and certain ones trigger insulin release. Acetylcholine, released from vagus nerve endings (parasympathetic nervous system), triggers insulin release through phospholipase C. There are 3 primary amino acids (alanine, glycine and arginine) that act similar to glucose by altering the beta cell’s(these are what release the insulin from the pancreas) membrane potential. So you see, the ability for your body to store fat even when carbohydrate consumption is low, is still quite present. Our bodies are very intelligent and adaptive to know what they need when they need it. So if we aren’t eating the carbs then we will still store fat by simply eating mainly protein sources.
When there is an off balance of carbohydrates, as in a low carb/high protein diet, the digestive process(insulin release included) will break down fats and proteins into sugars. It takes longer for that to happen, only by a couple hours, but it to does happen.
Basically there are 2 states where our bodies burn the most fat: in a fasted state and while exercising. Both of these body states are very similar. While we are exercising and while we are fasting our insulin levels are low because there isn’t food in us needing to be broken down. Growth hormone levels are high and therefore fatty acids are freed into the bloodstream to be used as energy. During fasting and exercise we burn fat in the exact same way as well. Also during fasting and exercise amino acids are moved to and from muscles to increase their metabolism. This also aids in the fat burning process. Additionally during both exercise and a fasting state our endorphins are elevated.
Typical exercise lasts 45-60 minutes while fasting lasts many hours. Combine both fasting and exercise by exercising during your fast state and enjoy an even greater fat burning. Both states are very similar in how the body burns fat and if we eat fuel only when we need fuel instead of at “breakfast time”, “lunch time”, “snack time”, or “dinner time”, etc then we will be better able to balance our body into a tone, lean, strength building, and fat burning every day of our lives.
Feed your body when and only when it needs fuel and make sure you’re eating real food that isn’t processed to get the absolute best benefit from all its nutrients. I recommend a few different Intermediate Fasting Protocols that gradually take you from eating often to eating when you’re needing. This makes it a lifestyle instead of a diet. Diets fail, but lifestyles succeed. It becomes a habit and once that happens you reap all the rewards.