It’s the same song I heard again just the other day: “I am eating organic, watching my calories and taking smaller portions – but I am not losing weight!” My response was to ask: “When are you eating?”
You see, my philosophy for eating, whether you are young or old, fat or skinny, is to eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for supper. This advice contains a multi-pronged benefit. Let me explain.
The human body has to shift from acid pH to alkaline pH on a daily cycle. This tidal shift moves nutrients in and waste products out of the intracellular spaces. The body should start out acidic in the morning for breaking down nutrients and helping move nutrients into intracellular spaces for cellular energy. By early evening, the body should naturally shift to alkaline, which helps the body cycle waste products out of the intracellular spaces through the night – which nudges the pH back to acidic by the next morning.
Eating a big meal at the end of the day, along with heavy night snacking, impairs the body’s tidal shift to alkaline and therefore causes a backlog of waste in between the cells of the body.
The body utilizes cortisol to help digest big meals. The normal body starts out high in cortisol levels in the morning but tapers off throughout the day to finish low by evening. Eating a big meal or heavy snacking toward the end of the day will raise cortisol levels temporarily to disrupt this cycle. Cortisol then floods the body, releasing glucose into the bloodstream at a time the body needs to be converting triglycerides into brain fuel and healthy essential fatty acids (EFAs). Turning up cortisol at night actually depletes energy reserves and causes adrenal burnout, pre-diabetes conditions and cortisol-related memory impairment.
Also, a normal cortisol cycle is doubly important in that cortisol opposes melatonin – the nighttime sleepy hormone, while melatonin opposes cortisol – the wake-up-and-feed-the-body hormone. In other words, cortisol starts out high in the morning, opposing and driving down melatonin. Cortisol tapers off during the day as melatonin rises in opposition to cortisol. Do you have trouble sleeping at night? This could be why.
The brain accounts for less than two percent of total body weight, yet consumes about 20 percent of daily caloric intake. This makes fueling the brain correctly extremely vital. One job cortisol has is to help regulate levels of glucose in the blood by acting as an antagonist to insulin. Cortisol stimulates the body to conserve glucose in the bloodstream for feeding the brain and other vital organs through the morning and into the afternoon. As blood sugar levels begin to naturally drop at night from smaller food intake and rising melatonin, the body begins to convert ketones into brain fuel while breaking down triglycerides (fat) into both EFAs and brain fuel. If there is too much glucose around through the night because of heavy eating, the brain and body will burn those calories instead of the ketones and triglycerides. This leads to EFA shortages, pre-diabetes challenges and metabolic diseases, helps cause excess weight gain, accelerates cognitive decline and produces inflammation throughout the body.
Insulin is part of what the body uses to balance the blood sugar/glucose load at all times. But when excess glucose circulates in the bloodstream at night, the body converts what it cannot burn into triglycerides that are stored in fat cells instead of burning already stored triglycerides for fuel, causing stubborn weight gain. When this glucose conversion problem persists, the body becomes increasingly unable to convert blood sugar into energy during the day, leading to insulin resistance, diabetes, emotional instability, dementia, heart disease, gout, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, among other things. Both physical and mental/emotional health suffer when this happens.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Try eating like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for supper and see what happens.
Craig Stellpflug is a retired neurodevelopment specialist and nutritionist based in Blaine.