There is an ideal in fitness – a false meme that can be a contributing factor working against a person with a weight loss agenda. If I had to narrow my list of fitness pet peeves down, this one would be top 5. What I would like to illuminate, and help people conquer is the age old idea that a person seeking weight loss should not eat after dinner.
Tina’s Energy Crisis
I will use the example of a 30-something female who I’ll call Tina:
Presumably Tina eats dinner around 6:00 in the evening – whatever Tina’s dinner might be is not too relevant. If she’s an average American 30-something female, she’ll not actually eat breakfast until after 10:00 in the morning, and it will be scarcely healthy – enter the scone or the energy bar with a latte.
As a 30-something, active female Tina requires about 1,800 calories per day to maintain her body weight. This means Tina is burning approximately 75 calories per hour to break even. To evoke a safe, sustainable weight loss, a calorie deficit of about 150 calories less per day would be recommended. This will place Tina at 1,650 calories per day. This means Tina will be living off approximately 68 calories per day on her journey to an improved body.
Relative to Tina’s BMR, she will be burning slightly more than those 68 calories per hour while she is awake and active – even if she sits on her ass all day and does little. What is often misunderstood about calories burned during the course of a day is that Tina will be burning only slightly fewer calories while she is sleeping – calories necessary for the energy it takes to sleep and recover from any would-be exercise or activity during her day.
If Tina stops eating at 6:00pm – after dinner, as is often recommended by the fitness media, and doesn’t eat again until 10:00am, then Tina has not fueled her body for a 2/3rds of the day – fuel which is required around the clock to bolster and enhance the metabolic effect for fostering weight loss. A majority of the day spent not eating – not fueling. How is a car supposed to make such a long journey without fuel…?
There is no shortage of published work suggesting hibernation theory; that by not eating often enough the body senses a decreased energy income. In order to overcome that decreased energy income, the body slows the metabolic process down to use less energy. Body fat is stored increasingly, and used only sparingly as fuel. This is how bears get through winter.
A Smeal Is A Hell Of A Deal
In a weight loss endeavor there’s little difference between snacks and meals – I just call them smeals. Every successful weight loss success story I have been associated with, male or female, young or not-so-young, has had several things in common, not the least of which is the rhythmic eating of smeals throughout the day. A smeal after waking up in the morning, a smeal at bedtime, and a few smeals every three to four hours in between can add up to a loss.
Eating rhythmically throughout the day, the brain and body conclude that since more energy is on the way, it’s not as urgent to slow down the metabolic process or to store energy as quickly in the form of body fat. That is, the motor runs fast, efficiently, and uses the best fuel. Add to that, additional calories burned due to increased activity, and the energy reserves (body fat) are utilized. This is one scenario in life when it’s good not to have reserves.
I often use the Sumo wrestler as an example of slowing down the metabolic process. We envision these large men who hail from Japan, a predominately demure culture, as being able to eat whatever they want. In part that’s true, Sumos take in a majority of their calories from a calorie-rich stew called, Chankonabe. However, Sumo wrestlers coax their metabolism by eating great quantities of Chankonabe, but only do so only once per day. This intake of substantial calories only one time per day enables weight gain at an exponential rate. Sumos train, eat, and sleep in an environment called a stable.
A thought: For those reading this believing they will lose weight by eating just a little during the day and having a large dinner at night, remember Sumos live in stables, athletes dine at tables – and do so frequently. Be well. rc