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Top 10 Diet Fallacies
By: Ori Hofmekler
Ori Hofmekler is an exercise and nutrition researcher who has some very strong beliefs about diet. His mission is to expose some of the fallacies and misinformation that exist on the subject of proper nutrition and eating habits. While his views are controversial, and you (and many here at IRON MAN) may not agree with everything he says, Hofmekler's points are critical food for thought.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Contrary to what you may have been told, morning is the worst time to eat. When you wake up, your body is already in an intense detox mode, clearing itself of the endotoxins and digestive waste of the previous evening's meal. During the morning hours, when digestion is fully completed (while you're on empty), a primal survival mechanism known as the fight-or-flight reaction to stress is triggered, maximizing your body's capacity for generating energy, being alert, resisting fatigue and resisting stress. The survival mode is primarily controlled by a part of the autonomic nervous system known as the sympathetic nervous system, or SNS. When it's in gear, the body is in its most energy-producing phase, and that's when the most energy comes from fat burning. All that happens when you do not eat the typical morning meal.
If you do eat a breakfast of, say, bagel, cereal, egg and bacon, you'll most likely shut down this energy-producing system. The SNS and its fight-or-flight mechanism will be substantially suppressed, and your morning meal will trigger an antagonistic part of the autonomic nervous system known as the para sympathetic nervous system, or PSNS. The PSNS will make you sleepy, slow and less resistant to fatigue and stress. Instead of spending energy and burning fat, your body will be more geared toward storing energy and gaining fat. Under those conditions detox will be inhibited, and the overall metabolic stress will increase, with toxins accumulating in the liver, giving your body another substantial reason to gain fat: It stores the toxins in fat tissues.
The suppressing effects of morning meals often lead to energy crashes during the daytime hours, when you're working, bringing frequent cravings for pick-me-up foods and substances like sweets, coffee and tobacco. Eating at the wrong time severely interrupts the body's ability to be in tune with the circadian clock. The human body has never adapted to such interruptions. We are primarily programmed to rotate between the two autonomic nervous system parts: The SNS regulates alertness and action during the day, while the PSNS regulates relaxation, digestion and sleep during the night.
Any interruption in the cycle may lead to sleepiness during the day, followed by sleeping disorders at night. Morning meals must be carefully designed not to suppress the SNS and its highly energetic state. Confining morning food intake to fruit, veggie soups or small amounts of fresh light protein foods, such as poached or boiled eggs, plain yogurt or white cheese, will maintain the body in an undereating phase while promoting the SNS with its energy-producing properties.
Note: Athletes who exercise in the morning should turn breakfast into a postexercise recovery meal'small amounts of fresh protein foods plus carbs; for example, yogurt and a banana, eggs plus a bowl of oatmeal, or cottage cheese with berries. An insulin spike is necessary to effectively finalize the anabolic actions of growth hormone and insulinlike growth factor 1 after exercise, but after the initial recovery meal you want to maintain your body in an undereating phase by minimizing carb intake in the meals that follow. Applying small protein meals'with minimum carbs'every couple of hours will sustain the SNS during the day while providing amino acids for protein synthesis in muscle tissue, promoting a long-lasting anabolic effect after exercise. Breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day; that distinction goes to your postexercise recovery meals. It's when you eat that makes what you eat matter.
Eating before exercise will give your muscles instant energy.
It's been generally assumed that the human body operates like a machine, so in order for it to work, it must be fueled like a machine. Eating before exercise seems to make sense. But does it really?
In order to give the muscle nutrients and energy, food must be fully digested. Digestion is the process in which the body breaks food down into smaller compounds, yielding molecules of amino acids, fatty acids and glucose that are transferred to the body's tissues through the circulatory system. The digestion-and-elimination process, which occurs in the stomach, intestines, liver and kidneys, requires substantial amounts of energy. During digestion, blood flow shifts from the brain and muscles to the above organs, which profoundly affects the brain and muscle tissues, lowering their capacity to perform work and resist fatigue.
What about meals that require almost no digestion, such as those made from fast-assimilating nutrients? Fat is digested and assimilated more slowly than protein or carbs, but is a preexercise meal of fast-releasing proteins and carbs (such as whey and sugar) the way to go? In theory such a meal should nourish the muscle tissues with amino acids and glucose to inhibit muscle breakdown and provide instant energy. It all makes sense, but in real life things often work differently from the way they work in theory.
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