The “diet versus exercise” debate deals with the wrong question.
Living well isn’t about choosing between eating right and exercising. It’s about taking one step at a time. If you’re going for weight loss, or slimming down, don’t overestimate exercise.
Food and eating are much more powerful beginner tools in the hormone and metabolic shaping of your body and mind. Your body will respond immediately to good foods, especially healthy fats.
I had six pack abs and under ten percent body fat all my adult life – and I still could see the explicit changes in how I looked, felt, and performed once I dropped the protein shakes, avoided wheat and sugar, and ate more fat.
Timing of meals is ultra important. I’ve learned to not force food upon myself. If I’m not hungry, I’m not going to eat. It just makes sense. It also turns out that hormones coordinate hunger, fullness, and digestion of food. So eating on someone else’s clock doesn’t make too much sense.
Two hormones in particular are predictable and determine what happens with the food you eat: insulin and cortisol. Insulin starts low when you awake and rises when you eat. Cortisol inversely starts high in the morning and drops as you fall asleep.
Insulin is released when there is lots of glucose in the blood. When you eat carbs, insulin comes. Insulin is the signal for your body to take glucose out of your bloodstream into your cells. Liver, muscles, and fat cells take in glucose when you eat because insulin commands it.
It’s important that your body can release insulin when you eat a meal. This ensures that the glucose in your blood gets absorbed by your body. Too much glucose floating around in the blood, and you have high blood sugar. This happens when you eat and there isn’t enough insulin released to take in all the glucose.
Cortisol counteracts insulin. Since cortisol is highest in the morning, insulin will be least effective in the morning. It makes sense to avoid eating until later in the day, when cortisol drops and insulin response can be more effective.
In this way, your body has a system and timing for food absorption. Play around with timing your first meal. Try skipping breakfast. Try a later lunch. Delaying your first meal will give your body a chance to absorb the food better. Cortisol won’t be so high. Insulin will be released more effectively, ensuring the glucose from your food gets properly absorbed from your bloodstream.
Use fatty foods to regulate hunger when you do eat. Fat satiates hunger much better than starches, and tells your body to burn fat. Skip the fat and you’re going to have cravings all day long.
Imagine how strenuous exercise can complicate matters for you. Your energy needs will drastically change. Your body will need more building blocks, more vitamins, more minerals, and different timing of meals.
It’s all doable, and I support your decision to become stronger through exercise. But before you toss yourself into the algorithms of traumatic exercise recovery, figure out your practice of food and eating for your current state.
This will allow you to measure subtle changes and observe differences more clearly. To summarize eating if you are not exercising:
- Eat your first meal later in the day
- Eat lots of healthy fats, until you are full and satisfied. If you have cravings or feel hungry after meals, try eating more fat.
- Eat carbs, such as starches, at the end of the day
- Adjust the amount of carbs you eat based on your body fat and your energy level in the morning
- Fat gain or hung over feeling – eat a bit less carbs
- Low energy, dry eyes – eat a bit more carbs
- If you do exercise, you will need more carbs
Photo credit daBinsi/Flickr. Posted under this Creative Commons license.