Analysis on this topic is largely based on research which is observational in nature rather than cause-and-effect. Nevertheless, there does seem to be an observational relationship between metabolic rate, circadian rhythm and meal intake times. When you eat affects your appetite hormone levels (e.g., insulin) which may cause disturbances in your circadian rhythm and lead to metabolic syndrome (i.e., obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.). Eating your biggest meal before 3pm tends to cause greater bodyweight loss than eating later.
A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity provides support that eating more food earlier in the day is more effective for losing bodyweight. This study compared two groups of participants: those that ate most of their food before 3pm and those who ate most of their food after 3pm. In both groups, caloric intake, macronutrient composition, activity level, sleep quantity, and appetite hormone levels were similar. The group that ate their biggest meal before 3pm lost more bodyweight at a faster rate than those who ate their biggest meal after 3pm. Other studies support this finding when it was discovered that those people who tend to skip breakfast are more likely to become overweight or obese than those who regularly eat breakfast. The reason for this may be because those people who skip breakfast tend to eat more food later in the day when their metabolic rate is usually reduced, thus perpetuating bodyweight increase.
BOTTOM LINE: Eating most of your food before mid-afternoon when your metabolic rate is elevated may be an effective and healthy habit for you to lose bodyweight. Certainly, avoid eating large late-night meals when your activity level is low--this is a recipe for weight gain!
The following is a listing beginning with the more essential supplements:
- Whey and casein protein--adequate protein is absolutely needed by your body to maintain muscle mass
- Fish oil--anti-inflammatory properties
- Multivitamin and/or multimineral--complementary to your diet and as insurance for good nutrition
- Workout drink (e.g., protein plus carbs, BCAAs)--supports muscle strength and size as well as fat loss and performance
- r-alpha lipoic acid--increases insulin sensitivity
- Tyrosine--may reduce central nervous system (CNS) fatigue
- Caffeine--increases CNS output
- Sodium bicarbonate--increases blood pH by buffering hydrogen ion buildup to lessen lactic acid burn
- Beta alanine--enhances workout recovery
- Creatine--increases ATP amount for quick energy and strength
- Green tea extract containing EGCG--increases metabolic rate during weight loss
- CLA--increases metabolic rate during weight loss
- Valerian root--may increase sleep quality
- PS--may increase sleep quality
Very low-calorie and very low-carb diets consist of eating about 10 calories per pound bodyweight and 10 to 15% carb intake daily, respectively. Usually professional physique competitors eat this way in order to achieve single-digit bodyfat percentages or to lose bodyweight/bodyfat. The trick to eating this way is to do it for only a relatively brief period (i.e., no more than four months) so as to not allow the body to go into starvation mode in which bodyfat storage occurs. To avoid plateauing when eating very low calories and/or low carbs, you should cycle your caloric or carb intake up and down to keep your body guessing and to prevent stagnation. In other words, decrease caloric/carb intake for a relatively short duration before increasing caloric/carb intake to fool the body so that is doesn't go into starvation mode. If the person dieting is very disciplined, dietary re-feeding every 3 to 4 days (or one to two weeks) in which caloric/carb intake increases by a factor of 1.5 (or 3.5) may be beneficial in obtaining an optimum physique. The risks of eating this way for a relatively long duration is the following:
- decreased metabolic rate
- decreased bone mass
- decreased muscle tissue
- nutrient deficiencies
Very high-carb diets consist of eating about 3.5 to 5g of carbs per pound of bodyweight or more than 70% carb intake daily. Usually endurance competitors or ectomorphic athletes eat this way in order to increase performance in long-duration events (e.g., marathon). Just as for very low-carb diets, very high-carb diets should occur for a relatively brief period (i.e., no more than four months) so as to not allow the body to convert carbs to fat when an excess supply is available. The risks of eating this way for a relatively long duration is the following:
- chronic elevated insulin levels
- increased bodyfat storage
- decreased insulin sensitivity
Fat burning goes into overdrive when your body's metabolic rate remains elevated for longer periods of time. The key to burning more bodyfat is to train your body to run at a faster metabolic rate. How can this be done? Simple. Incorporate more interval training (alternating between periods of high and low intensity) within your workout regime. Interval training enhances your metabolic rate due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC is the amount of oxygen debt your body experiences following intense exercise. The oxygen debt occurs to make up for the oxygen deficit during the initial period of your exercise bout when there is a delay between exercise and your body's physiological response to exercise. EPOC occurs to metabolize additional nutrients your body needs as well as to replenish energy and oxygen stores. EPOC increases when your exercise intensity increases. The increase in oxygen debt plus protein turnover (amino acid replenishment) causes an increase in your metabolism. The increase in your metabolism can last several days following an intense exercise session. This means your body can burn more calories while resting as a result of intense training. Think of your body as a machine. When the machine is placed under a greater workload, it "learns" to adapt to the increased stress. As a result, your body becomes more tuned, running at optimum efficiency and at a faster metabolic rate. The end result: your body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy while resting. How cool is that?
Indeed, it is insidious that the human body loves fast food and packaged, processed foods. Unfortunately, highly processed foods (i.e., fast food) may severely compromise your body's metabolism. How does this happen? Since processed foods typically lack the nutrients that whole foods contain, your body craves more fast food in order to get the nutrients it needs to remain healthy. Thus, your appetite for unhealthy food tends to increase in order for your body to get as much of the nutrients it needs even if the food in general is not healthy.
A diet of mostly processed foods (most people get the majority of their sodium intake from processed foods) and high-calorie beverages essentially causes an imbalance in metabolic rate. Foods high in sodium, beverages high in sugar, and processed foods with a high calorie density but low nutrient density do not trigger appetite sensors to signal satiety. Instead, these foods tend to stimulate the release of periodic surges of insulin to deal with high blood sugar levels. As a result, the tendency is to scarf down more and more of these foods and drink more and more of these sodas (can you say 40 oz, please). In the meantime, more and more empty (read: nutrition-less) calories are consumed. Guess where these extra calories get stored. In a word: bodyfat! Combine this tendency to overindulge with sedentary behavior and you have a recipe for obesity.
The solution to break this never-ending cycle of gluttonous behavior in order to fulfill your appetite is to learn to eat more whole, nutritious foods. These are the low-glycemic index foods which are the unrefined, complex carbs which take longer for your body to digest and absorb. The benefits of eating these foods: increased micronutrients (vitamins and minerals); increased fiber content which contributes to increased satiety; increased thermic effect of food (TEF) in which your body burns more calories to digest compared to simple carbs; and increased insulin sensitivity. Your body will adapt gradually to feeling full much sooner when healthier foods are eaten. More importantly, your body will have a steady energy balance due to more regulated insulin levels.
Many clients I assess state that they lack the energy to be active. This is when I edify them on the science of metabolism and how the cells within the body adapt to exercise. Many are amazed when they find they have more energy after participating in training sessions. How can this be? How is it possible for a person who feels they have very little energy suddenly feel more energized after exercising?
The answer to why and how we are able to feel more energized after being active is dependent on your anatomy as well as physiology. To be more precise, the organelles (e.g., mitochondria, nucleus, etc.) within your cells adapt to the training stimulus. In this case with regard to energy, it is the mitochondria (known as the "energy storehouses") of your cells which increase in number when your body becomes more active. Take, for example, weight training. As you perform more and more weight training exercises, the mitochondria within your muscle cells begin to multiply. This causes an increase in mitochondria density which creates more potential for energy to exist. It is the mitochondria that is responsible for up to 95% of your body's energy level.
So, to summarize, as you exercise regularly, your body reacts by increasing its storage of cellular mitochondria which creates more energy. In effect, you need to exercise to feel more energy. If you don't exercise, there's no need for you body to increase its mitochondria supply and as a result, you'll fell lethargic and weak. It's a classic case of "if you don't use it, you'll lose it". If you don't exercise, you'll lose your energy capacity (less mitochondria density). What irony there is in that to feel more energized, you need to begin exercising rather than relaxing. The more active you are, the more energized you'll feel. It's that simple. Of course your energy levels also hinder on your nutrition so be sure to eat healthy to complement your training. Nutrient deficiencies can disrupt cellular function and impact your energy as well as performance.
Back in the seventies it used to be thought that low-fat dieting was the best way to lose bodyweight. Now we know that this is not necessarily the case. Fats can be healthy provided you eat more of the unsaturated variety and less of the saturated and trans fats (i.e., homogenated fats). Currently the trend is to go the low-carb route to weight loss. Is this the key to losing bodyweight and bodyfat?
Restricting your carb (i.e., sugar) intake is not magical in affecting weight loss. What really matters overall is your caloric intake relative to your activity level. In other words, burning more calories than you eat will cause weight loss. If you consume more calories than your burn as energy you will gain bodyweight in the form of bodyfat. So why all the attention to low-carb dieting? The truth is that there is no simple solution to losing weight (hence the existence of the multi-billion dollar diet industry). You should not think in absolute terms by categorizing fats or carbs or proteins as being the enemy in terms of losing bodyweight. But having said this, at least 130g of carbs are needed daily in order to meet the basic energy needs of your body to function. Remember, your brain is fueled entirely by glucose. If your carb intake is significantly reduced, your ability to think, remember and concentrate will be compromised. In this case, your body will resort to converting amino acids and glycerol into glucose to meet your brain's demand for sugar to function.
In order to eat a low-carb diet, you must eat more protein and fat to compensate for the calorie differential. Both carbs and protein consist of four calories per gram but protein is much more satiating (appetite-suppressing) than carbs. Thus, eating more protein may lessen your overall caloric intake and therefore allow you to lose bodyweight. Protein requires more energy than carbs for digestion to occur. Thus, you actually burn more calories (without exercising) by simply eating more protein than you do eating carbs. But protein is also important as a macronutrient that is needed by your body to spare your muscles from being catabolized for energy. In addition, protein also helps to maintain your resting metabolic rate which may enhance fat burning. Not eating adequate carbs does not endanger the survival of your body because your liver can readily covert lactate and glycerol from fats as well as amino acids from protein into a carbohydrate source (i.e., glucose) of fuel when it needs it.
So it's not really about eating less carbs but rather eating more protein and fat that may help you to lose bodyweight. Of course, excess protein and fat that is not used for energy in the absence of carbs can be stored as bodyfat if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Thus, be sure to exercise regularly in conjunction with bumping up your protein and fat intake to lose bodyweight and bodyfat the healthy way.
It's never too late to get in shape or improve your body's strength and condition. Quality of life is affected by the amount of muscle mass lost due to physical inactivity. It's never too late to build a healthier mind, body and spirit. Your body is your vessel in life--if you treat it well, it will treat you well. Any exercise, no matter the intensity level, is better than no exercise. More importantly, exercise just makes you feel good! That old adage "use it or lose it" is quite true. Exercising regularly, eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep is essential to living a fit lifestyle.
The benefits of exercise include burning body fat, boosting metabolic rate, suppressing appetite, controlling sugar cravings, lessening depression, reducing chronic fatigue and increasing energy. Not one dietary supplement can promise all of the benefits of exercise. Acquire more energy and lessen your reliance on costly medications by engaging in daily exercise.
If you are one of the 30 percent people who believes that you should skip eating breakfast because you don't have time and that you can lose body weight, you are sorely mistaken. There's a reason why that old saying that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is true. The word breakfast,
when understood in literal terminology, means breaking
. Having not eaten while sleeping for at least six hours inevitably causes blood sugar levels to drop and the metabolic rate to decrease.
Here's a nice statistic according to a Harvard University study: people who eat breakfast are nearly 50 percent less
likely to be obese than those who don't eat breakfast. In other words, you're risk of becoming obese increases when not eating breakfast!
Here are other reasons why eating breakfast is so important:
- Breakfast provides the vitamins and minerals the body needs for the day.
A meal of whole-grain cereal with milk and low-fat yogurt with granola provides calcium and fiber--two nutrients deficient in many American's diets.
- Breakfast can help you lose body weight.
After an overnight fast, your body's metabolic rate decreases and as a result, you burn calories at a slower rate. Your body, as a result, will not efficiently burn calories throughout the day. Be sure to eat complex carbs like oatmeal or whole-grain toast, foods which contain plenty of fiber and are low in sugar. Foods such as oatmeal provide a steady supply of energy and is satiating, thus minimizing the urge to snack on sugary snacks later in the day.
- Breakfast boosts your brainpower.
Eating upon waking up will fuel your brain with much-needed glucose from carbs. The brain's fuel is glucose, so limiting your intake of carbs in the morning can adversely affect your ability to mentally focus and feel sluggish.
- Breakfast can reduce your risk of incurring diseases.
Eating fibrous foods (e.g., oatmeal, whole-wheat toast) for breakfast can reduce your risk of getting heart disease and breast cancer because eating fiber can reduce your LDL (the bad cholesterol) and estrogen levels. There is research that provides a correlation between skipping breakfast and an increased risk of getting a heart attack. If you don't eat breakfast because you don't feel hungry in the morning, stop eating after 8pm. By eating less food later in the day, you will eventually feel more hungry in the mornings.
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves alternating periods of fasting (e.g., 16 to 20 hours) and non-fasting (e.g., 4 to 8 hours). IF seems to be a fad lately within the fat loss and fitness industry. Since intermittent fasters eat less frequently (e.g., 2 to 3 meals daily), they must eat a lot of food per meal in order to get an adequate caloric intake (can you say gluttony?!). Eating so much food within a relatively short period of time inevitably makes the body work harder to digest the food.
Here are some of the PROS
- Decreases body weight--this is partly due to caloric restriction
- Increases insulin levels--this is due to lower blood sugar levels which causes the pancreas to reduce its insulin release
- Increases human growth hormone (HGH) levels--increased HGH is released from the pituitary gland to allow the body to use more fat for energy
- Decreases risk of diseases--this is partly due to hormone changes lessening the onset of diseases like cancer and heart disease
- Improves cholesterol levels--LDL and HDL levels tend to decrease and increase, respectively
- Decreases blood pressure--this is due to a decrease in resting metabolic rate
Here are some of the CONS
Bottom line: IF may work for some people who are disciplined at dieting and and are able to withstand hunger pangs. IF is NOT recommended for diabetics due to the fluctuations in blood sugar levels. IF is also NOT recommended for bodybuilders who aim to preserve muscle mass when dieting. The outcomes of regular meal feedings include:
- Catabolism--this occurs when muscle, which is a much more metabolically active tissue than fat, is broken down for needed energy when caloric intake has been reduced.
- Hypoglycemia--this involves low blood sugar levels which causes symptoms of hunger, headaches, weakness, and irritable feelings
- Bulging full feeling--caused by eating a relatively large amount of food within a short period of time
- Lethargy--this is caused by a lack of energy (read: calories) needed to fuel mental and physical activities
- Reduces Metabolic Rate--this is partly due to elevated cortisol, a stress hormone
My recommendation: "Listen" to the hormonal signals provided by your body which indicate hunger and eat. There are easier ways to lose body weight without causing dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Gradually reduce your caloric consumption while stepping up your physical activity. Eating healthy and exercising regularly will lessen disease risk, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce hypertension without resorting to a trendy diet like intermittent fasting.
- increased metabolic rate
- balanced blood sugar level
- muscle mass maintenance
- decreased bodyfat