EAT BIG AT NIGHT BABY…
What’s happening everyone? Hope the world is treating you good. If not, who cares? Keep walking on. Happiness is a state of mind, make your own circumstances, life is too short not to smile along the way, etc. In other words, yes I have been reading a lot of Bruce Lee. “Be like water my friends.”
I’ve also been hammering away on the new book project — how to make fat loss eating more functional for busy, working professionals.
I realized that one of the key concepts, perhaps the KEY CONCEPT, of all my plans is to structure the diet in a way that the majority of calories and carbs are eaten at night. I know that goes against everything you hear in the fitness industry. But guess what? If everything you heard in the fitness industry worked, the majority of the population would be ripped. Obviously, this is not the case, and we need to explore alternative methods to get the job done.
And this alternative works, trust me, and it is a sustainable plan for the LONG-TERM because it goes with, not against, social patterns and evolutionary-engrained, natural instincts.
Should I leave you hanging and tell you to wait for the new book? Nah, I don’t roll like that. I actually wrote about this topic in my first book: The Samurai Diet: The Science & Strategy of Winning the Fat Loss War. So for this blog post, I’ve decided to include a few chapters.
The new book actually will have a bunch more theory and science behind this process, but these excerpts are a good start for now. And of course the practical application, as always, should be simple. Which it is, and if you’ve read any of my previous work, I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record:
1. Eat a protein only breakfast
2. Eat a Paleo-style lunch (lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, and a piece of whole fruit).
3. Eat a Japanese Village-style dinner (lean protein, vegetables, and some low sugar, gluten free starch = sweet potatoes, potatoes, or rice).
Without further ado, here are the chapters from the book:
LESSON #92 — EAT A BIG EVENING MEAL
We’ve talked about a protein-only breakfast and the critical importance of a post-workout meal. The last meal to talk about is dinner. What portion of calories and macronutrients should we allot to the evening meal?
I believe the most sustainable and functional diet plans for most people are the ones in which the majority of calories and carbohydrates are eaten at night. It is a key concept of the Samurai Diet.
This probably goes against everything you’ve heard about an optimum fat loss protocol. It also probably goes against everything you read about in the health and fitness industry.
On this topic, I definitely lean more towards the intermittent fasting approach (which recommends cutting calories earlier in the day and eating more post-workout and at night) than the fitness nutrition approach (which recommends cutting calories and carbs towards the end of the day).
If you stay with me and don’t right me off as crazy, however, I will show you theory, practical experience, anecdotal evidence, anthropological research, AND scientific studies that all support this stance.
NIGHT TIME EATING EVOLUTION THEORY
- We evolved on a fasting/feeding pattern.
- The daytime hours were spent highly active, hunting or gathering food.
- Low food intake kept us alert and sharp during this time. Fasting is associated with adrenalin, stress, hunger, and the fight or flight evolutionary response. It signals the body to produce energy for activity.
- Large meals during the day require energy for digestion, and take energy away from activity.
- Rebound hypoglycemia (lowered blood sugar following food intake) would potentially have left the hunter tired, sleepy, fatigued, and impaired their hunting abilities.
- After a day of hunting or gathering, cavemen would bring home their catch, cook it, and have nightly feasts. The majority, if not all of their calories were eaten at night.
- They would relax, recover, re-energize, and repair with high food intake in the nighttime hours.
- This cycle of fasting/activity and feeding/recovery would repeat itself on a daily basis.
You already know from previous lessons that I don’t recommend complete fasting during the day for physique enhancement. Spreading protein intake out relatively evenly over 3 meals controls hunger, maximizes protein synthesis, and supports optimum muscle maintenance/growth.
A post-workout protein and carbohydrate combo offsets the unique metabolic environment, stress, and tissue damage created by intense training. The post-workout meal supports glycogen restoration, muscle growth, and does not inhibit fat burning. Fasting during this time would be counterproductive to the body composition transformation process.
However, with a protein only breakfast and targeted post-workout nutrition numbers, that still leaves a lot of calories and carbs unaccounted for in our overall diet. As mentioned, I believe we should follow an evolutionary/caveman-style pattern and place the majority of that remaining food intake at night.
THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF NIGHT EATING
- Many people are not hungry during the day when they are busy, active, and stressed. It is very easy for them to cut calories and/or eat light during this time.
- Large meals during the day are often counterproductive for the busy professional. For example a large lunch can result in rebound hypoglycemia, leaving a person feeling sleepy, tired, lethargic, unproductive, unable to focus, dependent on stimulants, etc. a few hours later (mid-afternoon “crash”).
- Most people are hungriest at night. The evening is a period of relaxation and recovery, and physiologically we crave food at night to repair and restock energy reserves.
- In over ten years in the fitness industry, when looking at client food logs, over 95% of people’s cheating on sub-optimal foods comes at night. When restricting calories, they are good and “eat clean/eat healthy” during the day, but willpower breaks down at night.
- If they do cheat during the day, they still overeat at night (or cheat even more at night) because it is our natural inclination to eat more at night.
- Research shows that as long at total calories and macronutrients are controlled for the day, food distribution is irrelevant. If it is our natural tendency to eat more at night, why not build this into the overall plan? If it is easy for most of us to undereat during the day, we can cut calories during this time, and save those calories so we can overeat at night.
- When people try to cut calories and carbs at night, many end up cheating on sub-optimal dessert-type foods — high sugar, high refined fat foods.
- Conversely when people do not restrict calories at night, and eat complete meals with protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables, they are much less likely to crave and cheat on dessert-type foods.
- Most people don’t mind being hungry during the day if they know they can eat a larger meal at night and get to end the day full, satiated, and satisfied.
- Takes advantage of the sacrifice/reward patterns in our brain. We can sacrifice, undereat, and give up foods during the day if we are rewarded with a complete, satisfying meal at night.
THE SCIENCE OF NIGHT EATING
From Department of Internal Medicine, University of Chieti, Italy:
(A) In a short-lasting protocol (3 days) 15 obese subjects were fed a hypocaloric diet (684 kcal/day) (a) at 10 hr only, (b) at 1800 hr only; (c) at 1000 hr, 1400 hr and 1800 hr, or (d) studied during a 36-hr fasting. Measures of calorimetry (R.Q., CHO and lipid oxidations, energy expenditure), hormones (plasma cortisol, insulin, HGH, urinary catecholamines), urinary electrolytes (Na, K) and vital parameters (body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure) were carried out at 4-hr intervals for three days. A significantly higher lipid oxidation and a lower CHO oxidation were documented with the meal at 1800 hr, in comparison with the meal at 1000 hr. CHO and lipid oxidation circadian rhythms appeared the most affected by meal timing.
(B) In a long-lasting protocol (18 days) 10 obese subjects were fed the same hypocaloric diet (a) at 1000 hr only and (b) at 1800 hr only. Calorimetric measures were performed every other day for 2 hr preceding each meal. Before and after the 18-days single meal period, body temperature, plasma cortisol, PRL and TSH were recorded (delta t = 4 hr). A higher lipid oxidation and a lower CHO oxidation were again demonstrated with the meal at 18 hr. Minimal changes of hormonal circadian rhythms were documented suggesting that the hypothalamus-hypophysis network is scarcely affected by meal timing. Weight loss did not vary in both short- and long-term protocol.
From the Institute of Biochemistry and Food Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel:
This study was designed to investigate the effect of a low-calorie diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner on anthropometric, hunger/satiety, biochemical, and inflammatory parameters. Hormonal secretions were also evaluated. Seventy-eight police officers (BMI >30) were randomly assigned to experimental (carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner) or control weight loss diets for 6 months. On day 0, 7, 90, and 180 blood samples and hunger scores were collected every 4 h from 0800 to 2000 hours. Anthropometric measurements were collected throughout the study. Greater weight loss, abdominal circumference, and body fat mass reductions were observed in the experimental diet in comparison to controls.
If science, anthropological research, and natural tendencies point towards eating a larger percentage of calories at night, why try to go against the easiest strategy to adhere to? Should we just try and fit in with “accepted” fitness nutrition standards for the sake of it, or are we looking for real world, sustainable results?
Just as I ask you to challenge the established truths of ADA nutrition, and Paleo nutrition being blindly applied to athletes, I also ask you to challenge fitness nutrition dogma.