Summer is now here and that means cookouts, graduation parties, and plenty of reasons to celebrate life with family, friends, neighbors, and even your Chiropractor! That is why this month’s blog is about ways to manage your weekend "binging" without gaining fat or weight.
Most often when talking about lifestyle changes and diets, it is revolved around excess exercise and restrictions from calories, certain foods, or macronutrients. Very rarely do we hear about ways to manage our weight when lifestyle dictates that we let ourselves enjoy food to the fullest. Whether it is a holiday, family reunion, or special event such as a graduation there are always going to be times where we will want to and should indulge in the finer things. After all, this is why we work so hard to stay healthy in the first place!
Maintaining your body composition is most importantly about two things. First and foremost is minimizing the release of insulin, as this is the fat storage hormone. Secondly, is making sure the body uses the excess calories or getting the food through the digestive tract with minimal absorption.
Lets start by focusing on the release of insulin. When we eat foods that raise our blood sugar rapidly such as certain carbohydrates and sugars, insulin has to be released in order to lower our levels to normal limits. Once insulin gets released, it is either going to cause the body to use the sugar for energy or cause the sugar to be stored as fat. This is why it is so important to keep our blood sugar levels stable throughout the day so that we do not cause any spikes in hopes of keeping insulin release at bay.
This, then begs the question, how do we eat and drink the things that we want without causing a spike in blood sugar and hence the release of insulin?
Step one: always eat carbohydrates with fats and proteins. Preferably have the proteins and fats first whenever possible. When carbohydrates are digested alone, blood sugar spikes twice as fast as compared to eating a carbohydrate with a protein or a fat. The next time you are going to have that big bowel of pasta, make sure you have a chicken breast or meatball with it. Are you going out to breakfast and dying for that piece of toast after a low carbohydrate diet? Go ahead, just make sure to put grass fed butter/organic butter on it, or maybe even an avocado to slow the blood sugar spike.
Next, make sure to be drinking a lot of water, especially with meals. For added benefit, have lemon, lime, or even a citrus juice! This will help fill you up faster while also helping in keeping your body alkaline. Also, when appropriate, use cinnamon as much as possible while eating carbohydrates. I like to put it in my coffee, sprinkle it on my breads, muffins, etc., as cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity more than almost any other nutrient. Increasing insulin sensitivity means that your blood sugar will have to spike higher than normal before insulin will be released and hence, prevent fat storage.
Finally, there are a few supplements that have been found very effective for increasing insulin sensitivity. The most popular of these are most likely green tea (EGCG). Green tea raises insulin sensitivity while also increasing metabolism by having a thermogenic effect on the body. Getting this in supplement form is most potent, taking 300mg before each cheat meal. Be sure to get this in the decaffeinated form!
I also recommend taking 300mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) before each cheat meal as well. ALA is an antioxidant that restores vitamin C and vitamin E levels as well as Glutathione. These antioxidants get depleted, as the liver has to work harder to metabolize carbohydrates, sugars, cholesterol, and alcohol. ALA helps prevent weight gain by taking excess calories and storing it in the muscle and liver as glycogen instead of fat.
Now that we have some strategies to help slow down blood sugar spikes, lets look at ways to make sure the body is either using the excess calories or ridding the excess calories by means of gastric emptying.
It is vitally important to eat your food as slowly as possible. The biggest difference in the body's ability to digest nutrients and rid the waste, is how fast someone puts food into their system. Many people try to chew each bite 15 to 20 times before swallowing. Others try to make a meal last at least 30 minutes, while others drink water between every few bites to extend the digestion period. It does not matter what strategy you use, but the premise is simple. Slower is better, especially when eating foods and drinks that raise blood sugar levels.
In order to speed up gastric emptying, we must make sure to be getting in plenty of fiber, probiotics, and caffeine. Although we want food to enter our system slowly, once food is in the digestive tract, we want it broken down and moving as fast as possible to prevent more fat storage. It can go without saying how and why fiber helps with this process. With that being said, it is vitally important to make sure and get at least one if not two servings of vegetables with each cheat meal. For people that do not like greens, there are always green shake options that one could drink before going out to eat.
Eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, cheese, kimchi, or kombucha helps build healthy bacteria in the digestive tract and hence speeds the breakdown of foods. These foods should be consumed on a regular basis, but especially on cheat days. These food groups do not need to be consumed while in the process of cheating as long as they are consumed that day. If fermented foods are not an option, be sure to use a pre/probiotic supplement.
Caffeine helps speed up digestion and elimination of waste products. Getting as little as 3 to 600mg a day will do the trick. This does not mean that you should get your caffeine from soda, but if you are going to enjoy one do not get decaffeinated unless you have an intolerance to caffeine. Many studies have showed the benefits of coffee and it is recommended that two to three cups a day work best. Dark roasts have been found to be healthier than lighter roasts are there are less micro-toxins in these beans.
Lastly, we cannot talk about managing a cheat meal, day, or weekend, without talking a little about exercise. It is vitally important to be somewhat active during a cheat day as it burns calories, and causes the muscles to absorb glucose thereby preventing blood sugar spikes. If the cheat day is not on a workout day, the workout can be as simple as 45 minutes of slow walking about an hour after a cheat meal. If you are one that likes high intensity, doing a simple 5 minutes circuit about 30 minutes before the cheat meal has been shown to substantially keep blood sugar levels lower after high sugar consumption. This can be as easy as doing body squats, jumping jacks, planks, crunches, push-ups, etc. The bottom line is move it to loose it, especially on a cheat day!
These few basic tips should help navigate your way through a busy social summer without sacrificing your health goals. Just remember, these tips only work if it is for a short period of time. If the forth of July weekend party turns into the month of July party, you will gain weight and fat no matter how much you stick to these tips.
Now go out there, eat, drink, socialize, and enjoy your life guilt free! Tomorrow, back on track!
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