Do you remember when we were little, our mothers would often tell us how breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Also, it would be fairly normal to hear from our friends and relatives that eating after 6pm is bad for us. Interestingly, it is not when we eat is so important but HOW often, WHAT and WHY.
However, morning is an important time of the day from the nutrition point of view because glycogen level will be very low and we need to eat as soon as we wake up. Glycogen is basically a long string of glucose (sugar) molecules chained together. It is stored in muscle and hepatic (liver) tissue. Interestingly, liver stores can be used to replenish muscle glycogen, but muscle glycogen cannot be used to replenish liver stores. During sleep, you will probably use some body fat and some glycogen to fuel your body’s recovery process. In other words, while getting our re-freshing 7-8 hours sleep we are basically fasting. This is why breakfast is an important meal of the day. Sometime people say that they are not hungry in the morning. This would a sign of them eating late at night or most likely over eating the day before.
If you are up and hungry, morning is a perfect time for carbohydrates. Specialist would also recommend to avoid bleached carbohydrates and stick with oatmeal and whole grains. However if you are hooked up on “bad” carbs, morning is the best time to have them. However, if you are hitting a high intense work out in the morning, carbohydrates are better to be mixed with protein depending on what your stomach can handle before the gym session. Listen to your body. You might not want to start a day with a steak; however one or two eggs might suit you better. Personally, I cannot eat much of protein in the morning hence oatmeal with a scoop of protein shake is the best option for me.
Now, both protein and carbohydrates are important but they differ.
High protein meals are rich in saturated fats which we want to minimize. On other hand, benefits of protein-rich foods is that they tend to offer a high level of satiety because they digest slowly. Thus, if you are on a weight losing track, you might want to lean towards protein containing meals rather than carbohydrates. However, carbs are as important as protein and must not be excluded from your meals. Additionally, small portion of rich in carbohydrate meal will make you feel full quicker and protein. As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates can also be more or less useful hence if you really enjoy carbs more than protein, you can customize your meals, using more vegetable and beans and maybe less pasta or rice. The type of protein or carbohydrate you choose to eat, especially for breakfast, matters. There are two types of proteins: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins, such as soy beans (and soy products), fish and eggs, contain all the essential amino acids; incomplete proteins do not. To compensate, incomplete proteins should be eaten in complementary pairs. This means eating another food which contains the missing amino acids to make up the difference.
Now, snacking boils down to two main things: comfort and boredom. When you snuggle into the couch at night and pull the covers over you with a big bag of your favorite snack food, a warm sense of comfort rolls over you. You’re nested and you love it. It is believed that eating at night or snacking “bad” food is really feeding our hormone of happiness or serotonin. In scientific words, “serotonin is a neurotransmitter, involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. It is manufactured in your body using the amino acid tryptophan.” The hormone of happiness causes addiction to carbs, fats and sugar. The more you feed it, the more you want it. Night, anyway is not the best time for carbs at all. Yes it is a good idea to have your last at around 7-pm; however it will not be possible if you had your previous meal at 1pm. Therefore, it is important to time your breaks in between meals.
There is a great advice we can take from bodybuilder enthusiasts: eating many times a day but a handful size of meals will keep you full throughout the day. Additionally, it makes your metabolism work constantly which also speeds it up. Interestingly, if you eat smaller meals but all the time, you loose cravings whatever they used to be. Now, eating “all the time” or “throughout the day” does not mean to eat anything which is on the way or literally sit there surrounded by food. To start with, let’s not forget the protein and carbohydrates importance. Secondly, athletes or bodybuilders often advice to have meal every 3-4 hours. For example, if you wake up at 6am you have oats and a protein shake with berries or half banana. After 2 hours of training (if your gym session is in the morning), you have another protein shake and some time later a second breakfast if you will which often contains hot soup or eggs. Remembering that morning is the better time for carbs, you are more likely to have a hot soup. In 3-4 hours you might have a chicken salad which is a protein rich meal but also includes “good” carbs and greens. Another 3 hours gone and I can eat a handful of nuts and a small piece of fish. As the day passing by, two more meals left. If you are not feeling that hungry, you might end having dinner around 6pm which might be couple of small stuffed capsicums or a steak. This is just an example and it is not a diet but a life style, it is a choice. You might want to start your day with a bar of chocolate or a toasted bread with gem, have a grilled chicken for lunch, couple of nuts after and finish up with a tuna salad at night. It is a vast platform for anybody. Create your own meals. Creat your own cook book. Create your own life style.
The important factor is to have knowledge. For example, if you know that eating carbs at night has to do with insulin, you might consider to not have pasta right before going to bed. As the day progresses, your insulin levels are less sensitive which means you have an easier time converting carbohydrates into fat stores. Later at night, your body is winding down from a long day and little energy is being used. As mentioned above, carbohydrates are addictive. Now imagine a boiled chicken breast with a steamed broccoli on a plate or grilled chicken wings with chips and a clicker in your hand. Which one is most likely to be your dinner? We crave carbs. Carbohydrates are the main source of our snacking arsenal and this powerful desire for sweet and salty food is genetically programmed. Sadly, “scientists who have studied taste believe that we are born with a built-in desire for sweets and a distaste for things bitter. Since sweets are high in energy, we are genetically programmed to seek the sweetness of mother’s milk. On the other hand, we are genetically programmed to shun bitter foods because in nature, many bitter foods are poisonous.”
If you are a big snack fan, go for lean protein snack such as cottage cheese, grilled chicken breast or turkey, egg whites, fibrous veggies such as broccoli, mushrooms, lettuce etc. Of course protein shakes can always help you with snack cravings especially if you have a sweet tooth. When it comes to eating late, nutritions recommend to eat the latest 3 hours before going to sleep, avoid starchy and simple carbs such as fruits, rice, bread, potatoes and pasta, and just remember if you want to snack at night go for low carbs products and find your favorite high protein foods.
The truth is that good eating habit is mental toughness and self discipline. It is also your choice and a very clear goal in you mind. If you love yourself and see your goal very well, your discipline will be much better. Eating right for a weight loss or muscles gain is very similar to getting a degree or a job of your dreams. If you really want to be a scientist for example, and you enjoy it, you study hard to get better grades hence better future. With eating, it is reasonably the same. If you want to shred couple of inches on your thighs or gain more muscle for a fitter look or you are actually going a little more extreme in any of those (such as preparing for a marathon or a figure competition), you need to understand why you are doing it. Eating habits are not diets but a life style, a life choice. If you feel like your under peer pressure and this favorite bar of chocolate makes you feel bad, you probably need to reevaluate your attitude towards yourself, first of all. If you are gaining muscles because your friends are doing so and you feel left out, you might want to change your life style or more radical, your friends (by which I mean interests). In other words, have a clear goal in your mind when approaching eating. You want to be healthier, fitter, more nutritions aware or simply love chocolate and do not really give a damn about when to eat it: any of those will apply its own path hence eating habits in order to achieve the final aim. The more complex goals you set up, the more complex the achievement way will be. All you need is to understand for yourself is why you are setting such and such goals. You must know your goal inside out and understand its hidden meanings in order to avoid doing something which causes disappointment and pain. Your eating habits must make you feel happy, satisfied, proud etc; even if you are highly disciplined and its something new for you. If you struggle too much, re-think your goals or the path. However, do not forget that nothing good comes in quickly or easy. Challenge and hard work are always there for you to take it or leave it.