What must you do after hCG diet to keep your target weight in check? One crucial and often ignored component of weight management is meal spacing – i.e., when is it best to eat each meal during the day. Scientific research on this topic may surprise you..
After hCG Diet – General Advice for Phase 3
Instructions for what you must do during what is now called Phase 3 of the hCG diet are very clear. Dr. Simeons created the diet for this 3-week period as part of his protocol in the 1950s. It is simply focused on staying away from starch and sugar.
Although this sounds simple, I have been asked thousands of times about the ins and outs of Phase 3. These are mostly by people who are either looking for a way to ‘game the protocol’ — i.e., have their cake and ideal weight, too — or wanting to know how to get back to their ideal weight after gaining too much during Phase 3. You can see my earlier post, with lots of comments and questions from my readers, specifically on this topic here: After HCG Diet To Do List. And you can read a more detailed explanation of what to do during this phase, with recommended recipes, in Eve Clark’s book (see the table of contents here: WHAT TO DO AFTER HCG WEIGHT LOSS – HCG Diet Phase 3 Instructions and Recipes for Success).
My point is that information about how to eat for the 21 days immediately after ending the 3-day hormone washout period is easy to find. However, what do you do AFTER that for long-term success? This is where most blogs, clinics, and medical professionals fall down on the job.
The Right Eating Style
Your eating style includes three major components: what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. Poor advice on all three of these components of eating abounds. Bad advice comes from all directions – nutritionists, medical doctors, fitness trainers, and even research scientists like me. Even Dr. Oz has chimed in with some pretty bad advice, on his website (that will be a topic for a future post). You would have a full time job just following up on all the ideas about eating for long-term success in weight management. Then you would have to sort through a heap of bad advice to see what actually works.
As you may know, my approach is to dig into the medical research literature to see what scientists have discovered about the topic at hand. Sometimes the research is good quality and sometimes it isn’t. See below what I mean regarding perhaps the most overlooked component of a good eating style — i.e., when to eat (meal spacing).
By the way, lots of bad advice on what to eat and how much to each for optimal weight management is also foisted on an unsuspecting public by people who should know better. I will write about these in future posts.
Meal Spacing for Long-Term Success After hCG Diet
The key timing for eating revolves around hormone balance, specifically around insulin and leptin. The pattern is simple: Eat three meals a day; allow 5-6 hours between meals; do not snack; do not eat after dinner; allow 11-12 hours between dinner and breakfast. That’s it.
Now here’s why.
This pattern works for optimizing your metabolism in response to food. The first three hours after you eat, your body produces insulin for refueling muscles and liver. This means that your liver and muscles take on as much glycogen (your body’s natural storage sugar) as possible. During this energy storing time, fat metabolism stops. At about three hours after a meal, insulin levels should be back down to pre-meal levels, whereupon your liver begins to kick into high gear. That is when your liver becomes a powerful metabolic factory for mobilizing glycogen into blood sugar. Blood sugar then feeds the rest of your body as it is converted into fuel in the forms of protein and fat as needed. At that point fats in the blood begin to burn, thereby clearing out stagnant calories that would otherwise go into storage.
The period between meals is an opportunity for the liver to exercise, just like exercise for your muscles. It needs that time to clear out glycogen. If you snack between meals or eat a meal too soon after the previous one, this process is blocked. Blocking your liver’s exercise is a fast track to insulin resistance and diabetes. Furthermore, an under-exercised liver synthesizes excess amounts of cholesterol, even if the food you eat contains no cholesterol.
The majority of fat that is broken down between meals is taken up directly by muscles, which underscores the importance of exercise. Well-toned muscles use up more fat between meals much faster than muscles that get no regular exercise. In fact, muscle tone is one of the main pieces in the pancreas-liver-muscle system that provides the balance of energy that you need to keep going all day long. When you eat too soon after a previous meal, you undermine this system, causing insulin levels to rise, fat burning to shut off, and calories to go back into storage. In addition, you will suffer from low energy and cravings. When these things happen, it shows you how out of shape your pancreas-liver-muscle system is.
By the way, a continued pattern of too frequent eating or snacking leads to pancreas fatigue, insulin resistance, diabetes, and a body that is in permanent fat storage mode. This is why obesity and diabetes are so tightly linked to one another. Estimates are that more than 20 million Americans are already pre-diabetic and don’t realize it. However, depending on how far down that path you might have gone already, you can reverse or control some or all of the damage, even if you are diabetic.
Too Hard to Make It 5-6 Hours Between Meals?
Feeling weak or hungry before the next meal may mean that one or more of the following apply to you:
1) You didn’t eat enough at the previous meal.
2) You ate too much carbohydrate at the previous meal.
3) Your fitness level is too low.
4) Your digestion is poor.
5) You have a sluggish and congested liver, with weak adrenals.
6) You have an exhausted metabolism and most likely fibromyalgia.
7) You already have diabetes.
Importance of Not Eating After Dinner
It is important to allow at least three hours after dinner and before bedtime and to avoid after dinner snacks because prime fat burning time is at night. In fact, during nighttime sleep is the only time you can lose any significant and consistent mass from excess stored fat. However, it only works well when you don’t eat for a period of about 11-12 hours.
During the day, most fat burning comes from food or from circulating fat in the blood. The majority of caloric metabolism in daytime comes from readily available supplies, not from storage. By about nine hours after dinner, these supplies are most likely used up, at which time your body will start to dip into storage reserves. During the night, you gradually begin to burn a higher proportion of fat for fuel. Therefore, 9-12 hours after dinner is a premium period for metabolizing stored fat.
After-dinner snacking, a little bit of ice cream before bed, a midnight snack … all of these will shut off your prime fat burning time. This is a fact of your normal biochemistry. If you have trouble keeping to this pattern, you either have an underlying health problem or bad habits that you have to overcome, or both.
What About Those Popular 5-6 Meals Per Day Plans from Fitness Trainers?
Many children, young adults, bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness trainers can, without apparent consequences, violate the meal spacing required for optimizing fat burning. This is because their demand for calories to aid growth and body repair is very high. Appropriate meal spacing becomes more important for people after the age of 30 or after intense training stops. In such cases, continued frequent eating will cause a gradual increase in percent body fat. It may show up either as added weight or as loss of muscle in proportion to fat.
Relevant Scientific Research
1) The Importance of Breakfast
Basic results from a recent study on the effect of breakfast on daily energy use show the following: an increased proportion of calories consumed at breakfast was correlated with lower weight gain in 6,764 middle aged and older men and women (age range 40-75), independent of total calories. In fact, people in the group who consumed the largest proportion of their calories at breakfast gained weight the slowest in spite of consuming more calories overall throughout the day. Two results were of particular importance: 1) the general trend was to gain weight as people aged; 2) those who ate bigger breakfasts gained less weight in spite of eating more throughout the day than those who ate smaller breakfasts. The significant variable here was how many calories at breakfast, and the conclusion was that the right start for optimum metabolism each day is a substantial breakfast. To be as complete as possible, this study also found no influence on this pattern from age, sex, smoking, total energy intake, macronutrient intake, social class, or physical activity. Since this was an observational study and not a weight loss experiment, no effort was made to modify diets or any other lifestyle factor for managing weight. The normal trend for people to gain weight as they get older was confirmed in this study.
Reference: Energy Intake at Breakfast and Weight Change: Prospective Study of 6,764 Middle aged Men and Women. In: American Journal of Epidemiology 2008 167(2):188 192. By: L.R. Purslow and 9 co authors, Institute of Medical Science, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK.
2) Research on How Often to Eat
This topic has become controversial because of the wide variation of results from different groups of people of different ages and levels of physical activity. The historical recommendation of three square meals per day is supported by the biochemical explanation of what happens to calories over time after a meal. It follows the meal frequency described above for a meal spacing of 5-6 hours and a 12 hour meal -ree period between dinner and breakfast. The recommendation of eating six small meals per day, to “keep the furnace burning hot,” has become dogma in some circles. However, the common advice for frequent meals to keep the body’s furnace burning hot makes no sense physiologically or biochemically.
This is a perfect situation for looking at the scientific literature to see what researchers have found. Meal frequency, as it is called, has been a topic of research for more than 40 years. Why so long? The complexity of attributing a single factor, such as when meals are eaten, among several other factors, as the cause of weight loss or gain is difficult to nail down with certainty. Differences among people in any experimental group confound the interpretation of results. For example, a recent Australian study, which is still unpublished, showed that no weight loss advantage could be found for eating five or six snack type meals per day vs. three full meals, in spite of the biochemical factors that favor fewer meals. Indeed, the results of this experiment failed to show any difference between the six meals per day group vs. the three meals per day group in weight loss, waist measurement, body fat composition, or blood sugar levels.
In spite of the lack of a clear conclusion, which often plagues these kinds of studies, nutrition researchers choose the logic of the biochemistry-based explanation to stick with the recommendation of three meals a day for optimum fat burning. Indeed, Dr. Tim Crowe, a nutrition specialist at Deakin University in Melbourne, described the six meal per day diet as a, “faddish dieting trend,” with very little research in support of it. In fact, he noted that there is some research to suggest that playing around with when you eat may actually cause you to put weight on. His bottom line advice is that dieters should be discouraged from making drastic changes to their eating patterns, and keep doing what works for them.
The latest survey revealed that 56 percent of adults eat between two to four times a day, while 37 percent eat five to seven times daily. Even after more than 40 years of research, the jury is still out on which of these groups is gaining weight faster. If you are young and very active, your eating pattern is of less significance than if you are more than 30 years old and becoming a couch potato. Indeed, even if you fit the latter pattern and seem to stay the same weight, the tendency is to lose muscle mass and gain fat. A 25 year old woman can stay the same weight for another 25 years and yet go from 20 percent body fat to 30 percent body fat or more if she doesn’t stay active and eat well for burning fat. The three meals per day eating pattern becomes more critical for keeping a low body fat percentage as you age.
If we just think about how humans adapted to an eating style in the wild, the concept of eating several times per day seems ridiculous. Scientific explanations about what happens to us physiologically when we eat too often is a roadmap to disaster for weight management. Our biochemical response to food definitely points to eating no more than three times per day, ideally with meals 5-6 hours apart.
Updating after hCG diet eating advice,