When it comes to changing body composition, nutrition is a major key – the old adage that “nutrition is 80% of your results” isn’t that far from the truth. At best, you’ll spend up to 10 hours a week in the gym (for the average person, this is more like 2-3 hours), leaving you with more than 158 hours the rest of the week to screw it up.
An area of nutrition that we’ve found tends to be drastically underestimated is the importance of maintaining meal frequency. Consuming a balance of protein, healthy fats and fiber every 2-4 hours helps keep two important hormones in check: insulin and cortisol.
Insulin and cortisol are what are called “see-saw hormones”: one goes up, which makes the other go down. This typically results in wildly varying levels of both hormones throughout the day, which leads to inconsistent blood sugar levels, which can lead to increased bodyfat storage, particularly through the trunk (abs, obliques and lower back).
Problems associated with high levels of insulin:
- increase in both size and number of fat cells, specifically in the upper back and the sides (love handles)
- increased risk of insulin resistance (precursor to diabetes)
- dramatic variances in energy levels throughout the day
- increased oxidation of the brain (oxidation = rust)
- insulin has been called the “hormone of aging”
Problems associated with high levels of cortisol:
- increased fat storage in the abdominal wall
- elevated heart rate
- turns the body into a catabolic state (muscle-wasting)
- increased stress on the adrenal glands and central nervous system
- decreased testosterone output
- reduced insulin sensitivity
So how do we keep those hormones in check? By keeping meal frequency, and therefore blood sugar levels, constant.
It’s understood that not everybody will be able to eat a nice, sit-down, knife-and-fork meal every few hours, but it is very possible to take in foods that will help maintain steady blood sugar. This is where smart snack selection comes in handy:
- some combination of protein, smart fats, and fiber
- sugar and starch are to be avoided at all costs
- eat enough to make you satisfied but not so much that you become full, thus delaying your next meal beyond 2-4 hours
So what are good options? We’ve compiled a list of our favorites below.
- Unflavored or lightly seasoned beef or turkey jerky (stay away from additives such as teriyaki and A1 sauce)
- Ostrim or other brand of protein snack
- raw, unsalted tree nuts (macadamia nuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, Brasil nuts, pistachios, etc.)
- thin-skinned fruits (berries, cherries, apples, peaches, etc.)
- raw or steamed vegetables of the non-starchy variety (no potatoes, peas or corn!)
Do you have a favorite snack combo? Post it below and share it with us!