Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When should I eat?

Having already covered the “what” and the “how much”, this post concludes the basic rules of nutrition. Of course, this subject truly is enormous – even though it shouldn’t. Food should be natural (and thus easy) for all species.

However, let’s talk a bit about when we should eat.

The current knowledge is that we should space our meals every three hours, which means 5-6 meals per day. The theory behind this is that we activate our metabolism, and we send our body the signal to stop storing fat. Another theory states that we shouldn’t eat right before sleeping, because food will be converted to fat.

All these theories are somewhat true – but they are mostly obsolete. New wisdom (and common sense) says that fat storage and utilization are working based on much longer periods, and not daily.

This means that if I eat for example 10.000 calories in one day, even if it is before sleep, I will not gain weight. I may have trouble sleeping, but I guarantee you that I will not add a single gram of bodyfat.

On the contrary, long-term habits are the ones that affect our bodyfat levels. For simplicity, even though it’s not accurate either, let’s assume that the base of our calculations is the week.

Thus, if you decide to count calories (which I don’t recommend), at least do it weekly. Meaning, if you have concluded that you should be eating 2.000 calories per day, think that you should eat 7*2.000 = 14.000 calories per week. If one day you eat 1.000 and the next 4.000, you are not going to see any difference. Not even if you eat them in 3 meals or 13. Not even if you eat them at breakfast or dinner. The long-term sum is what counts.

It’s precisely because of this fact that we are able to apply some very effective techniques like “cheat days” and “intermittent fasting” (that we will discuss thoroughly in the future).

Having all that in mind, you should learn that three meals are more important than others: breakfast, lunch and post-training.

Breakfast is important for all the well-known reasons, plus, if you follow my advice and do cardio in the morning, right after that you must eat protein to stop the catabolism of your muscles.

Lunch is important because it will give you energy for your job (it’s also a good excuse for a long break – but don’t overdo it or it will make you sleepy). It can also be seen as your pre-training meal, if you go to the gym in the afternoon. If you train later at night, you should include one more meal before your session.

And finally, your post-training meal is of utmost importance to feed your hungry muscles with protein, and thus help them grow. In fact, this meal along with the previous one, are the only meals that you need carbs. So, it’s a good time for vegetables, fruit, juices, honey etc.

Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to come up with some basic rules for your nutrition, that will surely help you to achieve your goals.

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