You’ve probably heard that if you want to get fit, your diet is just as important as working out. When most people think of “dieting” they think about the what: eating less meat, putting less sugar in their body and cutting down on complex carbohydrates. However, very few people think about the when: when to start eating, how long to fast between meals and what time to stop eating before going to sleep. In this article, we address the timing portion of dieting to help you burn fat and get fit. To find out more, check out Ultrametabolism by Dr. Mark Hyman.
First, let’s talk about Japan
In his book, Ultrametabolism, Dr. Mark Hyman starts off with a story about Japan. Japanese people are very small people, yet Sumo wrestlers are one of the biggest people in the sports world. How can this be possible? For a sumo wrestler, here is their basic schedule:
Wake up at 5am
Work out straight for 5 hours
Eat a big protein heavy stew called chanko-nabe
Chanko Nabe: Stew filled with shrimp, meatballs, bok choy, miso, 6 eggs & 15 other ingredients
Go to sleep
Wake up and do whatever they would do for the rest of the day
Eat a big dinner
Go to sleep
Did you catch it? It happened twice. No, not touching other big dudes. It’s the sleeping. Sumos, get SUMO BIG because they eat and immediately go to sleep.
So what? Why does eating and immediately sleeping increase fat? Fat is a natural way for animals and humans to reserve energy. In fact, 1 pound of fat is approximately equal to 2,000 calories (so if you think you’re fat just think that you have so much reserve energy in you right now- you’re like a Tesla Powerwall). When we move around a lot, we tap into that fat reserve and we burn more fat away. The rate at which your body burns that fat to use energy is your metabolism. So, when we go to sleep, our metabolism drops a bit because our body is now in dormant/recovery mode. Because we are not moving around as much as if we were awake (unless you sleepwalk, which means, you’re burning more calories in your sleep and getting fit 24 hours a day!) our body reduces our metabolism. This means that when you eat a bunch of food and go to bed, your body thinks “I have all this food in me and I won’t be using it now. I should turn it into fat as a reserve in energy!”
Before you get mad…there is a solution…timing Don’t worry, you can still eat and go to sleep. The biggest difference is timing. Give yourself about 2 hours between eating and sleeping. If you go to sleep at midnight, then finish dinner by 10pm. If you go to sleep at 10pm, then try to finish dinner by 8pm. This way your body will have digested food while you are awake so at night it can focus on what it needs to- recovery. Now your body will be able to heal itself instead of doing the work of digesting energy and making that reserve energy. This will make up one of the components of intermittent fasting, which we will touch on later. I know, I know. It might be tough with your schedule, but try this out for one week and see if you notice any changes. One week. That’s it. Just a try and see if you get a little slimmer.
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