Fueling Your Body
By: Pam Smith, RDN
Start your day with breakfast. Without it, you will spend the entire day fighting an energy deficit. Right eating at the right times will get your body in gear, with the necessary fuel to keep it operative from a point of strength. Breakfast doesn’t have to be hard to eat – or to put together – just there within ½ hour of arising. Try grab-and-go specials like low-fat cheese melted on whole-grain toast with fruit; milk or Greek yogurt with fruit to accompany whole-grain cereal or a homemade muffin; or lean meat on toast for a quick, take-along sandwich.
If you aren’t quite sold on the importance of eating early and eating often, here’s a more in-depth explanation of what is happening in your body and why you need to keep your Metabolic Fire Stoked!
It’s not the calories taken in, but the calories burned that count – and your metabolism makes all of the difference!
At a cellular level, our metabolism is activated with a balance of supply and demand: a supply of optimum fuel and oxygen to the cells for energy metabolism, and a demand from the body systems for energy. A combination of factors – especially our stressful lifestyles and lack of self-care – causes our fat cells to lock down, slowing our metabolic rate to a snail’s pace and resulting in fats being stored rather than burned for energy. This “cocooning” effect is the result of constant stress demands on the body and not nearly enough of an energy supply to meet the needs.
While a calorie is indeed a calorie, your metabolism can increase or decrease (and thus burn or store those calories) depending on your eating patterns. The body was designed to slow itself down as a protective response to energy deficits. As a result, erratic eating patterns keep our metabolism locked in low gear, storing away every meal as if it were our last.
Think of your metabolism as a campfire that requires fuel to burn, and air to fan the fire’s flame. A campfire dies down during the night and must have wood added in the morning to begin to burn brightly once more. Without being “stoked” with new fuel, the spark turns to ash – there’s nothing left to burn.
Similarly, your body awakens in a slowed down state. If you don’t “break-the-fast” with breakfast and continue to feed it through the day to meet your body’s demand for energy and boost your metabolic system, your body turns to its own muscle mass (not fat!) for energy and slows down even more, conserving itself for a potentially long, starved state. Then, when the evening eating begins, most of that food will be stored as fat because the body isn’t burning energy at a fast rate; the fire has gone out.
The food you eat, after long hours without, is like dumping an armload of firewood on a dead fire. Sadly, there are many of us walking around with a lot of “dead wood” sitting atop our fires!
Regardless of the number of calories consumed when we do eat, the body can use only a small amount of energy, protein, and other nutrients quickly. The rest is thrown off as waste or stored as fat. Eating the American way robs the body of vital nutrients for the remaining twenty-four hours – until the next feeding frenzy. Undo this typical pattern in your own life – and eat to stoke your personal metabolic fire – by eating strategically. Balanced mini-meals eaten often through the day is a major activator of your body’s natural ability to lose weight. But you must start with breakfast!
Here are some recipes to get you started: