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Does Eating Late Make You Put On Weight?

We’ve all heard the claim that being ‘nil-by-mouth’ after 5pm helps you to lose weight, but is this really true?

Well, yes it is and here I’ll explain why and how eating later could be jeopardising your weight loss progress.


Reason #1: Artificial light causes insulin resistance

New research has shown that blue and green light, from devices and bright lighting, lead to chronically elevated stress hormone levels.

We should start the day with high cortisol that gradually decreases over the course of the day. Exposure to light in the evenings scews this pattern.

Chronically elevated cortisol is also associated with storage of fat around the middle and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is a state where your body is less responsive to the effects of insulin, meaning that you need more insulin to do the job of moving glucose into your cells.

Insulin is your fat storage hormone and therefore elevated insulin levels are not desirable!

Once the sun has gone down, you switch on artificial lighting and I think it’s safe to assume that most people are eating dinner in front of the TV or some sort of blue-light-emitting device.

Essentially, exposure to light when you’re supposed to be in darkness disrupts your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycle) by increasing your stress hormone levels in the evening. We’ve known for a while that this affects sleep quality and duration, and that itself downregulates metabolism, but now we’re learning that this exposure to blue light also directly and immediately increases insulin resistance.

In light (pun not intended) of this recent research, eating during the hours of daylight may reduce insulin resistance and therefore aid your weight loss efforts.


Reason #2: The later you eat the shorter your fast

If you’ve read much of my content before, you’ll know that I’m big on fasting. The list of health and weight loss benefits are long.

I like my clients to have a minimum overnight fast (gap between dinner and breakfast) of at least 12 hours. During a fast, your blood sugar and insulin level decreases, allowing your body to move into fat-burning mode.

Ideally, this overnight fast should regularly last longer and sometimes it works well for people to have just two meals per day; so long as those meals are really nutrient-dense and balanced.

The later you eat, the shorter this overnight fast is and the less time you’ll spend in fat-burning mode (unless you delay breakfast).


Reason #3: The later you eat the less time you have to burn off carbs

For the majority, dinner involves starchy carbohydrates; potato, pasta, rice, bread, grains etc. Carbohydrates break down into glucose and are absorbed into the bloodstream and then into the cells for energy production.

Here’s the thing. In the evenings most people are pretty sedentary. There’s not a lot of energy being burned off after dinner. The earlier you eat, the more opportunity your body has to use any carbohydrates, that you ate at dinner, to make energy.

The later you eat, the more chance there is that your cells will be converting that glucose into fat for storage because you just don’t need the energy.


Summary Take home tips

Whilst not everyone that eats late will pile on the pounds, if you’re struggling to lose weight or reverse type-2 diabetes then it’s worth trying the following steps:

  1. When practical, avoid eating after dark
  2. Do not eat in front of a device like the TV or your phone
  3. After the sun has gone down, wear glasses that block blue light.
  4. If you have to eat late have a low-carb meal
  5. Eating two meals per day is perfectly okay and is often a helpful strategy for weight loss.

Sources:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155601

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107005/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3686562/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604172736.htm

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waist circumference matters

Why Your Waist Circumference Matters

You want to ditch your scale, don’t you?

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.  

I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously).

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.

Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

 

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

 

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”.

Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

 

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fibre.  Fibre can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fibre foods are Brussels sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars.  This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more.  Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less.  Seriously! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

Recipe (High fibre side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 200C.  

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  Brussels sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K.  You may want to eat them more often.

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There are times when you need to add some sweetness to a recipe. As a general rule it is better to use minimally or unprocessed natural sweeteners instead of artificial ones or standard table sugars.  However, it is not quite that simple. Some ‘natural’ sweeteners are heavily processed. You also still need to consider the amount used in a recipe and how this may impact you blood sugar. There is little point in swapping white sugar for a natural sugar if you end up using double the amount! Below gives you the lowdown on the various sweeteners on the market…

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How to spot hidden sugar in everyday foods

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Protein: How Much Should I Eat?

Protein Confusion

There’s a lot of debate as to whether carbohydrates and fats should be increased or minimised for optimal health but one thing that remains fairly consistent across most modern diets, e.g. Mediterranean, low-fat, and low-carb, is the protein requirements.

Despite this, you will read conflicting information about the actual amount we should be consuming.

UK guidelines recommend that 15% of your calories should come from protein. This UK guideline also suggests calculating your individual requirement as follows:

your weight in kg x 0.75 = your daily requirement (1).

This means the ‘average’ 70kg woman would require just 52.5g protein daily. This 0.75 grams per kg body weight is the minimum required to avoid muscle loss. As with so many RDIs (recommended daily intake), the goal is to avoid disease rather than to achieve optimal health!

Amongst nutrition professionals this calculation is considered to indicate be the bare minimum required, rather than the optimal intake. Guidelines from Acceptable Macronutrient Depletion Range (AMDR) indicates that protein intake should be as much as double this.

Research that assessed the affects of protein intake on weight management, appetite suppression, healthy aging and athletic performance concluded that a protein intake of between 1.2-1.6g per kg of body weight is a far more suitable target intake (2).


Can you have too much protein?

A common misconception is that too much protein causes kidney damage. However, in healthy people a high protein intake has absolutely no negative impact on the kidneys. It’s true that a low protein diet is beneficial for those with kidney disease, however that doesn’t mean that a high protein diet causes kidney disease.

A higher protein intake seems to promote weight loss too. A review of the literature showed that a high protein intake (25-32% of daily calories as protein) led to weight loss and improved blood sugar regulation (3). A higher protein intake also regulates appetite and reduces leptin resistance.

It’s argued by many that too much protein will causes weight gain because any over-consumption of calories leads to weight gain. However, the ‘calories in VS calories out’ theory is massively flawed. Read more about that here. Furthr to this, theoretically, your body will produce 50g of glucose for every 100g of protein consumed, stimulating insulin release; a fat storage hormone. This process is known as gluconeogenesis. However, research has indicated that this glucose doesn’t enter circulation and therefore doesn’t impact fat storage. Research consistently proves that a higher protein intake promotes weight loss.

Ultimately, it’s pretty difficult to overeat when it comes to protein because it suppresses the appetite. How many times have you struggled to finish your dinner and then miraculously found room for dessert? You really have to force yourself to overdo the protein!


My Guidance For Optimal Protein Intake

To keep things simple, as a bare minimum I recommend having 20g of protein per meal plus an additional portion after a workout. Remember, that’s the minimum. Closer to 30g per meal plus more with a workout, is likely to be optimal.

A combination of quality animal protein (organic, free-range & pasture/grass-fed) and plant protein is recommended.

If you want to calculate your recommended intake use the following calculations:

  • For athletes and the very active: 1.6 x your weight in kg
  • For less active individuals: 1.2 x your weight in kg

If you have kidney disease seek advice from a qualified professional.


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What are healthy sources of protein?

The protein that makes up our bodies is not obtained directly from the foods that we eat. Dietary protein is broken down into its ‘building blocks’ amino acids, which the body can then use as it needs.  Therefore, it is the amino acids that are essential rather than the protein. Protein is a constituent of every cell in the body, and next to water makes up the greatest proportion of body weight. It makes up hair, nails, ligaments, tendons, glands, organs, muscles, body fluids, enzymes and hormones.

Animal

  • Poultry
  • Rabbit
  • Venison
  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy – full-fat yoghurt, cheese, cream, butter etc

Seafood

  • White fish, e.g. Coley, Cod, Haddock, Sole, Bass, Sole, Halibut, Whiting
  • Oily fish, e.g. salmon, trout, herrings, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, fresh tuna
  • Shellfish

Plant Sources

  • Beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas
  • Full fat hummus (made from chickpeas and sesame seeds)
  • Baked beans – check for the sugar content, choose organic unsweetened if possible
  • Tofu – either plain that can be marinated or stir-fried, or as sausages or burgers
  • Nuts and seeds– raw and unsalted and avoid peanuts
  • Quinoa
  • Quorn (in moderation)

Supplement Sources

  • Protein bars (sugar free)
  • Whey, hemp or pea protein powders
  • Amino acid formulas in tablets or capsules

References

  1. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/protein.html
  2. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/apnm-2015-0550#.Wvw9_ejwZD8
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23829939

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