Once in a while, you get an idea for a post and you realize that the post is going to be huge. This post is going to be like that. In fact, it has to be multiple posts because there is so much good information in it. Part I is going to surround myths and common misconceptions. You must read it first and probably read it again right before you read Parts II and III.
Prepare yourself; this series of posts is going to be all about insulin.
Before I begin, I’m going to let you know now that, at times, you’re going to request scholarly articles or research studies to back up what I’m saying. Well, I’m not going to give them to you. Here’s the reason:
You can manipulate a research study to prove any outcome that you’ve hypothesized.
Instead, I will use simple logic and critical thinking skills and I hope you will do the same. As another aside, I want to clarify that I’m not putting forth a diet, but a new way of thinking about your current eating habits.
Forget intermittent fasting. Forget the Atkins diet. Forget cutting carbs or fat. Forget breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Forget not eating before bed. Forget everything you’ve been told, just for a second, while you read this post. There’s a new kid on the block (actually, a few of them) in terms of nutrition and they’re blowing everyone’s minds.
First off, caloric back-loading. Ever heard of it? Probably not. And it probably goes against everything you’ve heard about eating. Caloric back-loading involves eating the majority of your calories at the end of the day, before you go to sleep.
Know that myth about calories late at night turning to fat overnight? When’s the last time you had a late-night binge and woke up at a noticeably higher body-fat percentage? Wait, I’ll answer that for you. Uh, never. There’s your answer. The body doesn’t shut down at night. In fact, it’s incredibly metabolically active when you’re asleep.
Caloric back-loading has become increasingly popular, especially with followers of Jason Ferruggia and Nate Miyaki. These guys have promoted the Renegade Diet and Intermittent Feast, respectively.
The benefits of these style diets include increased energy during the day, better quality sleep, and having a nutrition plan that is easy to work with in social situations.
Second, intermittent fasting. You’ve probably heard about this before. It involves fasting for a period of time (16 hours being a popular selection) and only eating during a specified “feeding window.” Other popular fasting/feeding windows include 18/6 and 20/4, as well as 24 and 36 hour fasts.
Touted benefits include a frequent decrease in calorie consumption, enhanced fat oxidation, and and improvement in blood glucose and insulin levels.
The smaller feeding window often helps people eat less, if they are in a quest for weight loss, especially if the food quality is high (i.e. high in volume such as in the case of meat and vegetables).
Third, meal frequency doesn’t matter. First off, it doesn’t “stoke your metabolism.” You metabolize food the same way whether you eat 10 calories or 1,000 calories at a time. What I mean by this is that you will always burn the same amount of energy metabolizing 2,000 calories whether you eat it in one meal or eight.
Do you think that if you ate 1,000 calories above maintenance in the form of Snickers bars, you wouldn’t get fat because your metabolism was “stoked” or “fired up?”
It also may or may not improve protein synthesis. So, for the meat-heads out there, don’t be so concerned that you missed your fourth protein pulse of the day. You’ll survive.
Lastly, there is not proof that eating more frequently helps you eat more or less. For some, eating more frequently helps them eat more, simply because it’s difficult to manage multiple large meals all in one day. For others, eating more frequently helps them maintain energy levels throughout the day. Again, meal frequency does not matter.
Fats vs. Carbohydrates
The fact that I even need to go over this is a testament to how awful and corrupt the food industry (and our government, on the whole) is.
Some years ago, we decided that fat was the enemy. Saturated fat specifically. Don’t worry, we started eating those super healthy (LOLZ) trans- and unsaturated fats. And it didn’t help. We’re only getting rounder and more unhealthy.
So the other side developed it’s stance. And now carbs have become the enemy. Know what’s made out of carbs? VEGETABLES. Yes, vegetables are made of carbs. Brocoli? It’s made almost exclusive out of carbohydrates and water. But it’s bad for you. Only eat protein and fat. Know how much white meat chicken (since you’re also afraid of animal fats) you’d have to eat to reach 2,000 calories (per day, mind you)? Over 3 lbs of chicken. How many of you can eat even 1 lb of chicken a day?
There shouldn’t even be a “vs.” in this section heading. There is no competition. Both are healthy. Both are here to stay. Completely eliminating one and expecting to live your life at the same time is borderline ludacris and probably a misalignment of your priorities.
(I’ve noticed that this section, in particular, became a bit condescending. But this argument drives me nuts. So I’m leaving it that way.)
Breakfast and Front-Loading Carbohydrates
Most nutritionists and doctors have bragged about the benefits of eating breakfast for years. I’m not going to rag on breakfast. In fact, I’ve been known to go out to brunch … a lot. Here’s what you need to know about breakfast though:
- Eating your carbohydrates early in the day doesn’t make you”use them” during the day.
- Eating a lot of carbohydrates early in the day and prior to your workout doesn’t necessarily make you use them for that either. (I would suggest that this is technically different for endurance athletes. And no, walking your dog doesn’t count as an endurance activity.)
- Eating breakfast doesn’t “stoke” your metabolism. Can everyone just stop thinking that we can change our metabolic rate by eating at a certain time or rate?
Can I let you in on a little secret? Eating breakfast does not ensure that you maintain a low body-fat. In fact, if you truly believe that eating breakfast “stokes” your metabolism, then you will be hungrier during the rest of the day and eat more. So, that’s that.
Low-fat and Sugar-free
Don’t fall for this crap anymore.
Here’s a quick link to an article by Brian St. Pierre, a former Cressey intern and now top-guy at Precision Nutrition. Guy’s way smarter than I am in nutrition. His fourth point talks about low-fat and sugar free so I won’t beat a dead horse.
Along with the 10,000 other stupid myths about protein (including the ones about liver and kidney damage and world-ending scenarios), one statement that has been promoted and accepted as fact is this:
Your body has a limit to the number of grams of protein that it can digest/use.
That’s just evolutionarily dumb.
I’m sure that cavemen rationed off their food into six neat little meals after a long day of hunting the damn food, just because they couldn’t possibly process all that protein!
Some sources will tell you that 20 or 30 grams of protein is the limit that your body can digest. That would be like saying that you can eat 2,000 calories, four times a day, but since your body only digests 500 calories of that (I picked 500 arbitrarily), you will not gain any weight.
Where do you think the rest of it goes?! Hint: you don’t just excrete it in your urine.
So what did we learn in this post, Josh? Well, we have learned a few things:
- Meal frequency doesn’t matter.
- Protein does not need to be pulsed throughout the day.
- Low-fat and sugar-free don’t mean healthy.
- Breakfast isn’t the end-all-be-all of fitness.
- Eating late at night is not the work of the devil.
- Your metabolism doesn’t “shut off” if you don’t eat for a few hours.
So where are we going from here? Here’s the thing: almost all of these diets include improved insulin sensitivity as a benefit. But what if we’re looking at this from the wrong angle? Instead of using insulin as the end goal, what if we could draw from these current strategies and just manipulate insulin in the first place?
This is the basis for this new nutritional strategy. Part II will cover insulin and other hormones in depth, so that we can fully understand why insulin may be the most important hormone when it comes to improving strength, body-composition, and overall health and wellness.