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Planning Your Food Intake
by Matt Fish
Food intake is the most important factor when trying to trying to gain or lose body weight. And there is no magical combination of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. But there are meal planning guidelines you can follow to give you more sustained energy levels throughout the day and maximize recovery from your bodybuilding workouts.
I recommend an eating schedule based loosly on your circadian rhythm. Simply put, your body can utilize protein better in the morning hours and carbohydrates better in the evening. According to the author of The Circadian Prescription, "...failure to eat (protein) in the morning leads to a general inefficiency in body chemistry, just like what would happen in an assembly line if the appropriate parts were not delivered at the right time and place." Most of the amino acids derived from your protein intake stay in the blood stream throughout the day so they can be available when your body needs them. Ingesting most of your carbohydrates in the evening is probably even more important. Most people eat the opposite way: cereal, toast, pancakes, waffles, bagel, donuts, and juice are all common breakfast foods. People also think eating carbs after 6:00 pm will mysteriously turn them into the pillsbury dough boy. In reality, carbohydrates are absolutely essential to healthy and productive sleep. According to the same author, "eating carbohydrates in the evening helps your body maintain the high blood sugar level required for its nighttime activities of detoxification, repair, and restoration." I don't believe its necessary or desireable to get only protein in the morning and only carbs at night, but I do believe you will notice a great improvement in energy by emphasizing one over the other at certain times of day. My personal recommendation is to eat only complex carbs that are have a low glycemic rating in the morning hours. At evening, you can be a little more leanient on the type of carbohydrates eaten.
Another thing to consider is how fast your food digests. Fats and proteins generally take longer to digest and help you feel full longer. You should probably wait about four hours after a meat based meal for snacking to allow the stomach to empty. Carbs generally digest quicker, but are less calorically dense than fats (carbs and proteins have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram). Carbs also usually contain more water and fiber, which at volume without adding calories. So what should you eat to keep you full? Find out for yourself.
If you want to get the most benefit out of the foods you eat, start a food log. A food log is not something that you need to use everyday for the rest of your life, but occassional use can be of tremendous benefit. A detailed log should include:
If you feel that is overkill, pick the components that you feel will benefit you the most. The information on the food you eat can be used to determine how much energy it gives you. You will probably find that eating certain carbs in the morning cause your insulin to surge giving you a lethargic feeling. You can also pinpoint foods that may be causing an allergic reaction, which is another complex issue. (If you think you may have any food allergies, see your doctor.) The location and activity is important because you may find you eat a lot under specific circumstances such as when watching tv or traveling. Other people are "mood eaters" and eat when depressed, bored, stressed, etc. If you eat only when hungry and you always have energy, you probably don't need to be so detailed. But for most people, finding out why you're eating is just as important as what you're eating. Only then can you find alternatives to help you change. If you eat when bored, keep yourself busy any way you know how. Do a crosswork, take a walk, find some work to finish. If you are an emotional eater, find other ways to deal with your stress. There are several good supplements that can also be a useful adjunct to a successful dietary program. Some suppress appetite, some can improve most, others increase energy. There is probably something that is both safe and effectivel for you as an individual.
Baker, M.D., Sidney MacDonald; M.D., with Karen Baar, M.P.H. The Circadian Prescription. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2000.