The science of nutrition is filled with conflicting statements. And the question of how often to eat is no exception. Participants of Metabolic Balance follow eight basic rules in addition to their individualized computer-generated meal plan. In this blog we will breakdown rule #2: Ensure there is a five-hour break between meals. Many participants ask, “Why is it so important to observe the 5-hour intervals with no eating between your meals?”
In general, your body needs this time in order to complete the digestion process and take appropriate time to rest. By pausing between your meals without eating, your metabolism begins to burn unwanted fat within these 5 hours. Eating between these hours interrupts your metabolism and disrupts the “fat burning” process; therefore, you will not achieve the results you desire and need.
Common diet recommendations include low fat, carbohydrate rich, eating 5 to 6 smaller meals, low calorie, high protein; you name it. Waiting 5 hours between meals challenges the recommendation to eat 5 to 6 meals throughout the day. When the body is fed every 2-3 hours, it will burn fuel from those meals, rather than from its fat stores. So instead of burning stored fat between meals the way we were designed, the body enjoys having meals delivered every 2-3 hours.
Fats and carbohydrates can be used for either energy production or be stored for later use. Fats either get used for energy or stored as fat, whereas carbohydrates get stored in the cells of our muscles or liver as glycogen, used for energy or stored as fat. Our carbohydrate stores are limited, around 400 grams or 1600 calories. That’s why we can survive a day of not eating just fine. If we don’t use the food we eat for energy, it gets stored as fat. That’s where the calories-in calories-out concept comes from.
But, it’s more complicated than that. If we think about the gauge for a car’s gas tank, one side has an E for empty and the other, an F for full. Instead of “empty”, place “energy” for the E and instead of “full” place “fat” on the F. Some people can eat anything and don’t seem to gain weight. They are said to have a high metabolism. Others seem to gain weight just looking at food. They are said to have a slow metabolism. How we partition our food, is not a matter metabolism rate, but rather of efficiency. That efficiency comes from balancing your hormones. Balancing your hormones is the ONLY way to achieve fat loss that is sustainable.
As I stated, calories don’t control your metabolism, hormones do. Therefore the easiest way to fix a poor metabolism is to balance your hormones. Since insulin is the key hormone of the nutritional metabolism, it’s important to focus on controlling your insulin levels. In case you don’t know, insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that allows your body to use glucose from carbohydrates. It keeps blood sugar levels under control.
If we are constantly eating throughout the day, even so called healthy snacks, our insulin levels stay elevated. Elevated insulin levels have a negative effect on almost all the other hormones in our bodies leading to a host of problems. The following is a discussion how elevated insulin levels sabotage even the best efforts to lose weight and maintain health. Increased levels of insulin:
- Increase lipogenesis, that is the process by which we store fat.
- Elevate levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Elevate levels of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. These elevated levels lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate. Elevated levels of cortisol, the long term stress hormone also encourages fat storage.
- Increase hemostasis. Hemostasis is the process that causes bleeding to stop or blood to clot. In excess, this can lead to stroke, heart attacks and embolisms.
Increased levels of insulin also:
- Block the production of melatonin, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and HGH (human growth hormone). Melatonin is our sleep hormone. While insulin blocks the formation of melatonin, since it is fat soluble, it is also stored in excess fat. DHEA is a precursor hormone used to make all of our major anabolic hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. HGH as the name implies is responsible for cell growth and regeneration. All of these hormones together are anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative.
- Block lipolysis, the breakdown of fat. Lipolysis is the burning of fat in muscle cells.
- Block the formation of a FOXA2. FOXA2 influences the intake of food and spontaneous movement. If FOXA2 is blocked, the motivation to do physical exercise and burn sugar and fat visibly decreases.
Amongst the many impacts of high insulin levels, the greatest impact comes its influence on lipogenesis (fat storage) and lipolysis (fat breakdown).
When we consume carbohydrates, they get broken down into simple sugars, i.e., glucose. In order to clear the glucose from the blood, the body releases insulin to signal cells to take up the sugar. Since glucose is water-soluble, it needs a way to get into the cells that are surrounds by a layer of fat. It does this through the use of insulin attaching to insulin receptors. Insulin receptors signal glucose transporting factors to take up the glucose.
A constant supply of excess sugar in the blood stream leads to the constant production of insulin. This eventually leads our cells to reduce the number of insulin receptors and glucose transporting proteins. This is known as insulin resistance. Since the cells have reduced their way to communicate with insulin, the body ends up trying to make more insulin. Eventually the pancreas wears out and the end result is Type 2 Diabetes. But before this ever happens, we can live with negative effects elevated insulin levels for years.
Lets take a closer look how elevated levels of insulin increase fat storage and decrease fat breakdown. An enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) chops up triglycerides into glycerol and fatty acids. This needs to be done because fatty acids are two big to go enter cells and must be broken apart to fit. Elevated insulin levels block the enzyme in muscle cells forcing the fatty acids into fat cells. These two reactions together increase fat synthesis and reduced fat breakdown.
This brings us back to Metabolic Balance Rule #2. Eat three meals a day and nothing in between: no snacks, no sweets, not even anything we think of as healthy. In order for us to stay healthy, the body needs to fast between meals. Unfortunately Rule #2 does not exist in a vacuum and give you the freedom to eat anything every five hours. You still have to eat the foods that are right for you, have the right macronutrient balance and are in the right proportion to support weight loss. This is where the Metabolic Balance Plan comes into play. It will provide you with a meal plan based on your blood values, health history and food preferences.