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To be clear we are not talking about downing your lunchtime sandwich with a stopwatch on. What we are talking about is a different view of what constitutes healthy eating. I have a fascination with nutrition and exercise and finding the truth in the swamp of information on these topics. You read 5 different articles on the same topic and they tell you to do five conflicting things. How on Earth is the average person on the street supposed to make sense of it all. Even your best intentions could send you the wrong way if you follow the wrong “expert”. When in doubt, I like to look at the research and look at what evidence there is to support the various ideas or fads that are put forward. There are two concepts I have come across in recent times that grabbed my attention and I would like to share. Both have good evidence that supports them and both may be a little contradictory to what we have been raised to believe. But you may find them interesting and perhaps even a little helpful.
The first of these is time restricted eating. What this actually means is eating all your daily food intake within a restricted window of time in your day. This may be anywhere from 6 to 10 hours and you don’t eat or drink anything (other than water, black tea or black coffee – no sugar) outside this time. The average time frame people normally eat over is 12 to 14 hours. We start when we get up in the morning, eat various meals and snacks throughout the day and then possibly finish with night time treat. So why would you condense all your food intake into 6-10 hours when we’ve been raised to eat evenly throughout the day? The answer lies in the evidence, and it is staggering. The research in both humans and animals show a 27% body fat reduction in having exactly the same food over 8 hours rather than 14 hours. Furthermore, there is a very significant reduction in cardiovascular disease, both cancer and cancer reoccurrence, diabetes and multiple other health issues. This is simply remarkable. There are some quite elaborate biochemical reasons as to why and how this happens which is beyond the scope of this email (happy to have a chat to you if you are interested), but simply eating the same food and getting a significantly different response from your body is quite fascinating.
The second concept that I have been looking at recently is food and exercise. That is, should you or should you not eat prior to exercise. Again, many conflicting views about eating for energy, loading up with carbs etc. Again, the evidence tells us a pretty clear answer. That is, if we exercise in a fasted state (eg. First thing in the morning) we burn significantly more fat than if we eat and then exercise anytime within 4 hours. In fact, if we have eaten, we pretty much don’t burn any fat at all (unless you are doing elite high-intensity high volume training). So, to get the best benefit from your exercise, do it on an empty stomach.
The caveat to all of this is: if you are taking any regular medications, especially if you are diabetic, talk to your doctor or pharmacist prior to trying any of this. I hope you find this helpful. Although I am a pharmacist and medications play an important role in our health, I do believe there are many things beyond medicines we can all do to live longer and live better.
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