Snack Yourself Thin
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to snack. What we snack on is the problem. Most Americans snack on either high sugar, high fat, or both high sugar high fat snacks. These lead to an intake of way too many calories. When this happens we produce stored body fat.
Our body is designed to convert our food into energy. Our energy needs vary based on some genetic factors, our muscle mass, our activity level, our body size, and even the temperature we function in. We use more energy in cold temperatures than in warm or hot temperatures.
Our body is using fuel constantly throughout the entire day and night. We have sophisticated regulators that balance that fuel use with our fuel intake. If we don’t give our body the needed amount of fuel it will take fuel from our stored glucose and then our stored fat, or if that is lacking from our muscles and then from our organs. That is not a healthy situation.
When we give ourselves too much fuel, we rapidly move the excess fuel to stored glucose known as glycogen in our liver and our muscles. After that storage space is filled, it is available between feedings and when we need more fuel such as when we exercise. We dip into our liver glycogen storage after about 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours of not eating. The liver glycogen storage is depleted after about 24 hours of fasting. At this point our body starts to move toward fat use as a primary fuel source.
Our muscle glycogen is not used to maintain our blood sugar like our liver glycogen, but is used when the muscles demand more energy with activity and exercise. This whole process is not an on/off process. It is continuously operating to provide a steady blood sugar as well as provide fuel for activity. Fat is also in constant flux between being used for fuel and being converted to storage.
Ideally, our body would get the exact amount of fuel that it needs at any given time. This is not possible unless you had a feeding tube in place or an IV with nutrition running at a known fuel baseline and then continuously adjusted to give more or less fuel depending on our need. This is not reasonable so our body was designed to take care of its fuel needs independently of our access to food.
Today we live in an environment of plenty. Food is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive. It is provided to us already processed and ready to cook or eat. No longer do we have to go into the wild to search, hunt, kill, prepare, drag back, and then cook our meals. (Unless you consider going to the supermarket an experience in the wild).
When we eat more calories than we will burn at any given time, our body rapidly fills its glycogen stores and its fat stores. If we eat excessive amounts of food, most of this is converted to fat storage. That brings me back to snacking.
An ideal eating scenario is to eat multiple small meals daily that are balanced in carbs (glucose), protein, and healthy fat. Eating 4-6 small portioned “snackmeals” a day will prevent significant excess calorie intake. Our dietary plan for both weight reduction and long term weight maintenance is based on this eating plan.
Snacks that have adequate protein, about 12-18 grams, along with 10-15 grams of carbs and 5-7 grams of fat would satisfy the needs of our body. This would be between 150 and 200 calories. Over a 2 and 1/2 to 3 hour period of time this meal will provide adequate energy for our function. If we are doing intense exercise, we may need some additional calories.
There are lots of snacks available that fit this recipe. We provide these snacks for our patients in portion-controlled sizes to control calorie intake throughout the day. An important thing to understand though is that looking for very high protein snacks can become a negative as they may provide excess calories. Too much of a good thing is a problem. There are a lot of products on the market that have 20, 30, and even higher protein levels. These would only be needed by someone doing intense exercise protocols.
If you are like most people who live a low activity lifestyle, these higher protein snacks can add body fat and excess weight. Controlling calories in our total daily intake is important for weight control, but spreading out these calories allows us to avoid making excess body fat. When we eat 4-6 small “snackmeals” a day and lower our calories below our daily needs, we begin to burn more body fat and will lose weight.
The ideal diet for weight loss would be six snack meals a day consisting of 1/3 protein, 1/3 complex carbohydrates, and 1/3 healthy fats. The daily calorie count of about 1200 calories will result in steady weight loss. If you are more active, you may need 1500 to 1800 calories a day. Likewise, if you are very sedentary, it may take a reduction to 1000 calories daily to see fat burning ramp up.
Snacking with good tasting, balanced selections can keep hunger at bay and provide the proper nutrition at the right time day in and day out on your journey to thin.