Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eating at night will make you fat?

This being my first blog post ever, I wasn't really sure on where to start. I recently gave a speech in one of my courses regarding common myths in the realm of exercise/nutrition, so I figured I could start by recapping some of my speech here. Throughout my studies, conversations with clients and friends, and discussions with strangers, I realized most of the advice preached in mainstream America regarding exercise and nutrition is completely misguided, and I hope to clarify some of the fallacies you may have frequently stumbled across.

Myth #1: It's terrible for someone to eat late at night.
I hear over and over again that “You better not eat past 8pm, or you'll get fat.” This message primarily stems from misinterpreting what is actually happening. It doesn't matter if you eat late at night, but it does matter what you eat at night. The majority of food choices people make during the late hours of the day tend to be heinous, and this is mainly because of the mental state one is usually immersed in during this time. Here are some of the most common scenarios that take place:

1) We're just plain sleepy. Our bodies physiologically crave high glycemic foods during this state. Given that the late hours of the day imply bedtime, we are more primed to desire starches/sugar. Late night cereal, cookies, or chips, anyone?

2) Physical/mental exhaustion. At the end of the day, most of our bodies/minds feel depleted from the madness of the day (exams to study for, standing on our feet all day, nagging coworkers, sitting in traffic). We become less motivated to do anything that requires physical or mental effort once we arrive home (hence vegging in front of late-night TV). So, if you're tired, are you likely to chop up vegetables, cook up a lean protein, and search for a nice healthy dose of mono or polyunsaturated fat to top off your meal? Heck no. Dialing Papa Johns is wayy easier, or merely reaching for that plate of brownies sitting on the counter leftover from the weekend party.

Much easier to have them do it for you

3) Simply staying up too late. Currently living in a college town, I see this day in and day out. Kids stay up late (be it cramming for exams, partying, or mindlessly surfing the internet) and before they know it, it has been 8 hours since dinner. Once they take a step back and realize they are ravishingly hungry, they hunt around the kitchen/vending machines like a wild animal looking for the first thing they can find to stuff in their mouth. Since healthy meals do not abound in college kitchens, viable options include heating up a hot pocket or driving down the street to Burger King.
This is increasing at an alarming rate with the working population as well. With more immediate distractions at home (the boundless vacuum of internet cyberspace, countless late-night TV shows, to name a few), people are staying up late not because they have to, but voluntarily. If one stays up exceedingly late, inevitably he or she will gravitate toward poor food choices either that night, or the next day when they are sleep-deprived (remember we're more “primed” to desire sugar when we're sleepy). It is very easy to mindlessly munch away at a bag of chips while sitting in front of the TV, which is yet another reason to just get to bed and avoid putting oneself in a tempting situation.

Most of the foods humans eat at night are going to make them fat NO MATTER WHEN THEY EAT THEM, so it's not the time of day that matters in regards to weight gain. Is it wise to eat your carbohydrates (and please make sure they're from good sources ex. oats, whole-grains, and fruits/vegetables) early in the day as opposed to night? Yes. However, people get so caught up in the “don't eat past X pm” that they miss the big picture. Be aware of what you tend to reach for after a long workday. If you know you'll be tempted to eat sweets when you're tired (which I know I am), then don't buy them! If they're not in your house, then you can't reach into the cabinet to eat them.

Try as best as you can to eat every 2-3 hours. This doesn't mean eating huge meals, but small, frequent feedings. This may be something as simple as a handful of almonds, two pieces of string cheese, or an apple with peanut butter. This will help control blood sugar and insulin levels (two key factors in fat cell regulation), as well as curb massive hunger cravings/binge eating. If you're eating frequently, then you're less likely to become so hungry that you'll eat whatever is placed in front of you. No one has the self-control to resist “bad” food when they're famished. So plan ahead; you have to be defensive when it comes down to nutrition. If you are hungry at night and can't resist something sweet, then try a fruit (strawberries and blueberries are my personal favorite).

Hopefully this shed some light on advice you all have probably heard at some point growing up. I'll be writing soon on another pervasive myth: muscle will turn to fat upon aging.


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