The Four Golden Rules of Meal Planning – Part I

Food Bible

The Four Golden Rules of Meal Planning

Part I

By Michael Rorick CPT, CFNS ©2014

What to eat? What to eat? How has life become so busy? Sometimes it seems like it’s difficult to just stop and catch your breath. In the midst of the seemingly endless schedules and todo’s we need to take some time to take care of ourselves. The easiest thing to do, is to head up to the local fast food joint and order anything quick off the menu, but that certainly has nothing to do with healthy living and if you have any fitness goals whatsoever, you’re just setting yourself up for failure by doing that. So how can we handle our eating dilemmas in the short periods of time that we have while maintaining or creating a healthy lifestyle? Well, the first thing we need to do is actually realign our thoughts about food and eating. Food is fuel. Food supplies our bodies with energy to live and nutrients to maintain or grow. Consider this; an average 30 yr. old male, who is 5’10” and 180 lbs, with a body fat percentage of 16% has a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of approx. 1900 kcal per day. This BMR would be the minimal amount of daily calories needed to sustain life processes such as heartbeat, respiration, growing hair and nails, etc. Anything below that amount would start depleting fat storage and catabolizing lean muscle mass for energy. Anything above that would be stored in fat cells for later use. Let me say that this example is a gross generalization and not all calories are created equal. We’ll discuss this in future posts.  So my point is, that even with a fairly good exercise routine, the majority of our fuel goes towards sustaining life. Quality fuel will add to quality results in health. Well… we’ve heard it all. There’s nothing good for us anymore. Every fad diet has us cutting carbs, cutting fat, cutting proteins. It’s an endless cycle of misinformation. What if I told you that not only are all of them good for you, but also necessary for proper body function? It’s merely in the timing and portion of these macronutrients that creates the results we get. So, let’s discuss four simple rules in eating and planning meals.

Rule #1 Eat every 3 to 4 hours whether you’re hungry or not.  As we eat, our digestive process breaks down food into small components and liquefies it into a substance called chime. Chime leaves our stomach and passes into our intestines for final breakdown, absorption or removal from the body as waste. As some of our food is broken down into glucose (sugar) it enters our blood stream as fuel. The glucose begins to thicken our blood and receptors tell our pancreas to secrete insulin. The insulin attaches itself to the glucose and stores it in cells in muscle tissue or the liver as glycogen. Glycogen is a very thick compact form of glucose and is used as the primary component to creating energy. As the energy stores fill up, excess glucose in the blood stream is removed and stored in fat cells. As an analogy, imagine fueling up your car to drive to work and then putting a whole bunch of sugar in the gas tank. Within minutes, the sugar clogs up the gas filter and lines and the car is sitting on the roadside waiting for a tow. According to the average American consumes 156 lbs. of sugar each year. That’s 31.5 5lb bags a year for each of us. Sugar is found in nearly everything these days. So… all sugar is bad. Right? Well… actually, no. Sugar or glucose is necessary for quick energy, organ function and proper brain function. Carbohydrates (which breaks down into sugar/glucose) are quite good for us when we find them in vegetables, some fruit and complex forms, which contain fiber. So how can we utilize this information?

Let’s consider a few things. The average glucose level in normal blood is between 80 and 120 mg/dl. Falling below 80 makes us feel hungry. Spiking the level above 120 triggers insulin to remove the excess glucose from the blood stream. So here’s how the vicious cycle works. We go to work and don’t eat all day. Blood sugar drops and we’re starving!! We get home and down a few pieces of pizza which spikes our blood sugar. Insulin packs our muscles and liver with glycogen (concentrated glucose) and whatever else is left over and can’t be processed is stuck on our sides as fat. Our blood sugar drops dramatically and we fall asleep. We then wake up hungry and the process starts all over again. How can we use this to our advantage? Well, our body physiology is predictable and trackable. There is something called gastric emptying time which is the time it takes for food to leave our stomachs. Carbohydrates take 1-2 hours to leave. Proteins take 2-3 hours and fats take 3-5 hours to leave our stomachs. By eating every 3-4 hours, our body goes into a state of thermogenic burning. This means our body continues to burn kcal in the process of digestion and increases metabolism. This must be employed along with Rule #2.

Rule #2 When eating, always combine a quality protein with a carbohydrate. There is something called the Glycemic Index (G.I.) which is simply a listing of foods and how quickly they break down as glucose into the blood stream. Foods with a high G.I. (candy, soda, fruit juice) break down very quickly and flood the blood stream with sugar. Foods with a low G.I. like carrots, broccoli and chicken breakdown much slower. Since the gastric emptying time of protein is slower than that of carbohydrate, by combining them in our meals we effectively lower the G.I. of our carbs and glucose is released slower into the bloodstream. So what does this effectively do? Well… by eating every 3 to 4 hours and slowing down the release of glucose into the bloodstream by adding lean protein, we lessen the chances of spiking our blood sugar level. This means that the glucose is absorbed slowly with less insulin being released and there is less excess glucose to be stored as fat. Smart huh? Not taking control of our blood sugar levels can lead to obesity, insulin insensitivity and potentially Type 2 diabetes.

So to effectively start using these strategies we need to plan ahead and start compiling the proper portions. We’ll continue these thoughts and more in Part II.


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