Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eat Less - It's all Timing

Your body needs different nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) at different times of the day depending on what you are doing.  If you eat the wrong stuff at the wrong time, you cannot get the most out of the food.  So you end up wasting food dollars. For example, if you eat a high protein meal shortly before you begin a rigorous activity (workout, sport, or physical labor i.e. work), your body will burn the protein for energy.  This is neither effective (only four calories per gram of protein) nor efficient because generally protein is the most expensive part of your food budget. So let's look at how to eat in a cost effective manner.

For the sake of this discussion we will presume that you have the normal daytime work schedule.  You wake up around 0600-0700 hours and get to work by 0800 hrs.  You work eight hours plus a one hour lunch break and get home in time for supper at 1800 hrs (6:00 PM).  After work you play with the kids or walk the dog or some sort of other low-level activity until 2100 hrs (9:00 PM) and then you watch some TV or read until bedtime.  Pretty standard day for a lot of people.

So, you just woke up, now what.  First thing everyone needs to do is drink 8-16 ounces of water.  Why?  Because your body is dehydrated.  Most people don't drink right before they go to sleep so it's probably been 8-10 hours since you took in any liquids.  Second, if you are thirsty when you eat breakfast you are more likely to drink more while you eat and that's going to be coffee, milk, or juice.  A little of any or each of them is ok but you don't really need more than 4-6 ounces of either of them.

Eat Real cheese, not "Processed Cheese Product",
choose Low-fat sliced ham,
use Egg Substitute like Egg Beaters,
on a Whole Grain Bagel, Roll, or Toast

What to eat?  Well you haven't eaten in 10-14 hours either so you need a good mix of protein, good fats, and carbs to get your body fueled up for the day.  Pure carb breakfasts like cereal, pancakes, waffles, french toast, etc. don't do much for you.  These foods will quickly convert to sugars, hype up your body, and then you crash in two hours and are hungry (and carb craving) again.  This often leads to uncontrolled snacking of more high-carb junk food, which is worthless but expensive.  Instead, eat a substantial breakfast such as egg, ham, and cheese, on a whole wheat bagel. This quick and filling meal gives you 22 grams of Protein, only 7 grams of Fat, and 310 Calories.  Add a small glass of juice and / or milk and you are good to go.  (These numbers are for egg beaters, low fat (but real) cheese, and low fat sliced ham on a whole
wheat bagel.)  This is a $1.50 or less meal.  I eat this fairly often myself and I am also a firm believer in taking a multi-vitamin with my breakfast everyday.

Your brain and body need the fuel and other nutrients to perform well.  A good breakfast will give you a good start but after 2-3 hours you need to refuel with a complex carb and protein snack to tide you over until lunch.  I have three favorites.  1. Low fat yogurt with a sprinkle of crushed mixed nuts.  2. Half of a peanut butter and honey sandwich using whole grain bread.  3. Half of a commercial protein bar.  I usually drink water or green tea with it. All of these offer a good mix of slow burning energy sources with some fats and protein to provide a longer feeling of fullness and are about 150 calories.

Lunch - the highlight of my day!  I generally eat my main meal at lunch now.  On weekends I eat sandwiches for lunch but during the workweek I like a sit down meal, which I bring from home.  This serves a couple purposes.  First, it makes me slow down and take a break.  Second, it gives me a complete, nutritious meal to get me through the rest of the work day when I really need it.  Three, knowing what I have coming for lunch gives me something to look forward to and helps me resist buying unneeded snacks. 

After lunch it's back to work and even though I had a good lunch, I will still need an energy boost to get through the rest of the afternoon.  I usually have a cup of yogurt or fruit; all I really need is healthy calories here.

If you kept fueled up during the day and drank plenty of water (16-24 ounces during the past eight hours) you shouldn't be famished when supper time comes. Before every major meal you should drink a glass of water.  For supper you shouldn't need a big meal because your work load after supper is generally lighter than what you have been doing during the work day.  Many people eat their big meal at night but it just isn't needed.  A big salad and a light supper will meet all your nutritional needs.  This meal should be higher in protein and lower in carbs because your body doesn't really need the calories but it does need to start preparing for recovery and rebuilding; that takes protein.  A salad for fullness and a protein shake or small piece of chicken, fish, or lean red meat is ideal.  If you have trouble falling asleep at night it might be because you are taking in too many carb calories late in the day and your body is hyped up on sugar. 

A food gap from 1800 hrs (6:00 PM) to 0600 hrs (6:00 AM) is just too long for me so I almost always eat a high protein snack just before going to bed.  A protein shake is best because it is a good source of complete protein and amino acids.  This gives your body what it needs to recover and repair all the damage you did to your body during the day.

Eat carbs one to two hours before strenuous activity that will require lots of energy.  Complex carbs are always better than simple carbs (sugars such as glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, also known as table sugar, maltose, dextrose and lactose.) because they are slow release and don't cause blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Eat protein first thing in the morning and last part of the day.  Protein is a building block, don't waste it by burning it up as energy.  Carbs are always cheaper.

Eat your fats in the morning if possible. Your body needs fats for many processes and energy. 

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