CONVENTIONAL HEALTH ADVICE to regulate blood sugar levels (i.e. keep energy levels stable) suggests we eat 3 meals with 2 snacks each day. This means that you should eat 5 times per day, or about every 3 hours. Basically, they’re suggesting that we graze on small meals throughout the day. Even most doctors advocate this pattern of eating. However, did you know that doctors don’t go to medical school to learn nutrition or lifestyle? They go to medical school for one of two reasons: learn to perform surgery or prescribe medications. They need only one nutritional class toward earning their medical doctorate degree. The fact is that most family medicine doctors don’t know much about nutrition, yet we put our trust in their words.
The theory behind eating 3 meals with 1 snack between each meal is to provide your body with the raw materials to easily convert into useable energy to function and move.
OUR BODIES HAVE A BUILT-IN BLOOD SUGAR REGULATOR MECHANISM to help keep our energy levels stable. Unless you’re a type 1 diabetic, 95% of us don’t need to be eating meals every 3 hours. Our bodies regulate blood sugar levels by two hormones:
1. INSULIN – a fat “storing” hormone
2. GLUCAGON – a fat “burning” hormone
Both insulin and glucagon are produced in the pancreas, and they work in a see-saw fashion. As insulin rises to get blood sugar out of your bloodstream, glucagon is suppressed. And as insulin levels fall, glucagon rises to put more blood sugar into your bloodstream. And this automatic negative feedback system maintains your energy levels.
HERE’S HOW YOUR INSULIN/GLUCAGON SYSTEM WORKS when these hormones are working properly:
1. You eat food, which consists of the 3 main macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. But our bodies can’t use this energy in their natural form so these macronutrients are converted into energy our bodies can use. Carbohydrate are converted into glucose (also called sugar), fats are converted into triglycerides and glycerol, and proteins are converted into amino acids. But let’s focus on glucose because I believe this energy source is the main type 2 diabetes culprit.
Your body converts carbs into glucose (sugar). Glucose enters your bloodstream (which is why it’s called blood sugar or blood glucose) and signals your pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin’s main job is to bring glucose out of your blood and into tissue for either immediate energy or stored for future energy.
2. The 1st place the glucose goes is into all 75 trillion cells that make up your body.
3. When all 75 trillion cells are full of glucose, some of the excess glucose gets converted again into a compound called GLYCOGEN, which is a fancy scientific term for “stored carbohydrate.” Glycogen gets stored in 2 places – your liver and your muscle tissue. And it’s called liver glycogen and muscle glycogen. Glycogen can be converted back into glucose and used for energy very easily.
4. When both your liver glycogen and muscle glycogen tanks are full the remaining glucose from the meal you just ate gets stored in your fat cells. At this point, your fat cells grow a little, which triggers another hormone called LEPTIN. Leptin communicates directly with your brain by telling your brian that you’re full and to stop eating.
AFTER YOU FINISH EATING, INSULIN LEVELS GO DOWN
1. Your body uses the energy in your 75 trillion cells to keep your body functioning and moving.
2. As energy levels in your 75 trillion cells deplete, GLUCAGON levels rise to tell both your liver and muscle tissue to start converting their stored glycogen back into glucose and send it back into your bloodstream for immediate energy to be put into your 75 trillion cells.
3. As your glycogen tanks empty, your body goes to your fat cells to change the stored fat into FATTY ACIDS to be ushered to your 75 trillion cells for energy. This process isn’t as easy for your body to use as energy as converting glycogen into glucose, so it takes a little more effort and time for your body to perform.
….. and this is how your body naturally stabilizes blood sugar levels (energy levels).
Both your liver glycogen and muscle glycogen tanks can only hold so much “stored carbohydrate” for readily available energy. The average size liver can hold approximately 100 grams of glycogen, whereas the average size person’s muscle tissue can hold about 400 grams of glycogen.
There are about 4 calories of energy in each stored carbohydrate:
1. LIVER GLYCOGEN – 100 grams (x) 4 calories = 400 calories
2. MUSCLE GLYCOGEN – 400 grams (x) 4 calories = 1,600 calories
So, on average, the body can store a combined 2,000 calories to be used very easily as energy. That’s a full day’s worth of energy!
THERE’S NO NEED TO EAT EVERY 3 HOURS (3 MEALS AND 2 SNACKS PER DAY), especially since most Americans have a sedentary lifestyle that doesn’t require many calories. If you don’t move around very much during the day, your body probably isn’t using much (if any) glycogen. So if your glycogen tanks are still full and you eat again, the calories from the foods you eat at this point will likely go straight to your fat cells making your fatter and sicker.
SO A BETTER SUGGESTION IS TO EAT EVERY 5-6 HOURS so that you let your body do what it was designed to do. Two major benefits from this small change are:
1. You’ll help reset your metabolism to work more efficiently, and
2. You’ll lose weight
You’ll lose weight because you’ll give your body time between meals to use glycogen. And as your glycogen tanks deplete, your body will go to its fat cells to release fatty acids for energy.
Try making this little change in your lifestyle. It might take a little while for your body to adjust to this modification in your eating habits but it will work. I used to eat every 2 hours (9 times each day). When I made this adjustment, I could only go 2 1/2 hours at first before I was hungry and needed to eat to release the hunger pangs. But I eventually built my way up to 6 1/2 hours without feeling hungry. I lost weight, reset my metabolism to work more efficiently, and made my cells more insulin sensitive so that my body can use the calories I feed it more efficiently.
GIVE IT A TRY. Try to go 5-6 hours between meals (no snacking) for a month. You have nothing to lose – unless you consider losing weight and reversing your type 2 diabetic condition a bad thing!
I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU… Let me know what your experiences are during this transitional stage. I think we learn best from each other. Everyone will have different experiences and results so write your observations in the comment section below.