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Thanks for joining us for episode 107 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.
Today we are answering following question from a listener:
“What are your thoughts on meal timing and the number of meals in a day? What factors should be taken into account? Do you recommend going according to your hunger or having some sort of a basic structure or plan?”
There are those of us who thrive on sticking to three meals a day and those that feel the need to graze throughout the day. How do we know how often we should really be eating? It turns out there are many factors that influence meal timing and frequency for each of us.
Today we clear up the confusion so you can determine how often you should be eating and figure out meal timing strategies that work for your lifestyle. Just some of what you’ll learn are reasons why you may need to eat more or less frequently than the typical three times per day, why hunger signals may not be the best indicator for meal timing, and guidelines for meal timing around workouts.
Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:
- Why eating three times per day is generally recommended for people with digestive issues
- An explanation of the migrating motor complex and why it’s important to allow enough fasted time between meals
- How people with low blood sugar may need to eat more than three times per day
- The importance of eating adequate calories during meals for those with low blood sugar
- How to spread your calories out throughout the day if eating your daily caloric intake within three meals is difficult
- Why intermittent fasting may be of benefit for those with reoccurring SIBO infections
- How eating according to hunger signals is generally recommended
- How following an eating schedule can help those with low blood sugar prevent sugar crashes
- Why having an eating schedule can help those prone to under eating
- How stress can affect hunger signaling and meal timing
- Guidelines for timing properly balanced meals and snacks pre and post workout
- The potential negative effects of fasting before and after exercise
- Factors that can influence your need for a bedtime snack
- Busting the myth that eating before bed causes weight gain
- This episode is sponsored by Paleo Rehab
- Episode 93: The Ins And Outs Of Intermittent Fasting
- Stefani Ruper’s “How fasting after workouts can cause high testosterone, acne, and PCOS”
Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to episode 107 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my cohostLaura Schoenfeld.
Laura: Hey everybody!
Kelsey: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence-based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com, and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.
Over the next 30 to 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insights into solving your health challenges with practical tips and real food. Stick around until the end of the show when we’ll be sharing updates about our businesses and personal lives.
Laura: If you’re enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. While you’re over in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well! And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health-related question that we can answer on an upcoming show.
Kelsey: Today on the show we’re going to be discussing meal timing and how to figure out how often you should be eating. Before we get into our question for the day, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:
This episode is brought to you by Paleo Rehab, a five week online program designed to help you recover from HPA axis dysfunction, also known as adrenal fatigue. Is your perfect Paleo diet and lifestyle leaving you exhausted? Now is the time to start feeling the health and wellness you know you deserve. If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and are ready to take back your health, then head over to MyPaleoRehab.com to get your free 28 page e-book on the 3 step plan for healing from adrenal fatigue.
Kelsey:Welcome back everybody! Here’s our question for today’s show:
“What are your thoughts on meal timing and the number of meals in a day? What factors should be taken into account? Do you recommend going according to your hunger or having some sort of a basic structure or plan?”
Kelsey:This is a good question because I feel like there’s so much different information out there about meal timing and what is best and depending on certain conditions. I think it can get a little bit confusing when you’re not working with somebody one on one to help determine what kind of plan you should be on or if you should really be doing intuitive eating where you’re listening to your hunger signals and all that. I think this a great topic for today.
We’ll start with the amount of meals in a day because I think that’s where a lot of the confusion comes first of all. For most people, I will say that I have them eat three meals a day, so the standard breakfast, lunch, dinner. But there’s definitely some other health conditions that can change the way I want somebody to eat. I really work through the client intake form with that person seeing if there’s any underlying reasons why we might want to have them eat more or less times in a day.
I’ll talk about some of those conditions in a little bit, but to explain why I start with three meals a day, I come from a digestive perspective because a lot of the clients that I end up working with have some degree of gut issues that are going on and that’s why we’re working together. Because of this, I’ve looked into meal timing from a digestive perspective as well.
One of the main reasons why I recommend three meals per day is because this leaves enough fasted time for the migrating motor complex to work. The migrating motor complex is essentially a cleansing mechanism for your digestive system. What it does is it moves undigested food, and particles, and bacteria through your GI tract. It’s kind of got that peristaltic movement, those waves moving things through your digestive system. It’s thought that when your stomach grumbles when you’re hungry, that that’s actually the migrating motor complex working.
That’s to say that this process only really happens when you’re not digesting. It starts when there’s no food in your stomach or your intestines, or I guess there would be some in your intestines but it’s already for the most part digested, broken down, you’ve absorbed your nutrients from it for the most part. Really it’s just the undigested fibers and things that are moving through the system. It only works when you’ve stopped breaking down nutrients and you stopped breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. That’s to say that you have to be fasted some of the time for this process to work.
This is a really, really important process for anyone, not just somebody with digestive concerns, although it’s more important for them. But of course all of us want to have at least a functioning digestive system. Even if you’re digestive system is really healthy right now, it’s still very important for make sure that this process happens on a regular basis.
Most people generally recommend to leave somewhere between three and five hours between your meals so that the migrating motor complex has some time to cleanse the digestive tract. If you’re eating three meals a day, generally you’re going to leave about three to five hours between your meals. Five hours is certainly on the longer end of things and for some people that’s going to be too much. They’re not going to feel great if they’re fasting for five hours between their meals. But somewhere between three and five hours, that’s going to put you at somewhere about three meals a day including when you’re sleeping, when you’re waking up, and all that kind of stuff.
Because of that, I start with this idea that somebody should eat three meals per day. But of course if you’ve got other conditions going on that make it difficult for you to eat only three meals per day or if you have conditions that make it better for you to eat less than three meals per day, that’s when I would work with somebody one on one about. But I can walk you guys through my thought process behind this.
I’d say the most common reason somebody would eat more than three times per day is because they’ve got low blood sugar. Laura, I’m sure you work with people like this as well who if they’ve got low blood sugar, generally they’re going to feel better when they eat more than three times per day. That’s just because it helps to keep their blood sugar a little bit more stable. They may not even be able to go three hours between meals without having their blood sugar crash. That means that they might eat more like four or six times per day, somewhere in between there.
For those clients, generally even though they’re going to be eating more than three times per day typically, I want to find out the least amount of times that they can eat per day that still keeps their blood sugar stable. That’s going back to this migrating motor complex idea. I want them to be fasting for some amount of time every day so that the migrating motor complex has some time to do its work, but of course we don’t want their blood sugar to be crashing.
Laura:I just want to mention you were saying about frequency of eating, I think we should be clear that we’re not necessarily talking about full meals that many times per day.
Laura:That can be snacking. The other thing that I wanted to mention, for a lot of my blood sugar clients, I assume you see this as well, if somebody can’t go three hours without eating, it’s probably that their not eating enough at the meal. That’s usually what I find is that the meal is just inadequate and that’s why their getting hungry and low blood sugar within three hours. A lot of times I’ll look at total calories intake before I start adding meals in because most of the time it’s fixed by eating enough at those meals. I just wanted to make that note.
Kelsey:That’s a really good point. Exactly. We’re not talking just about meals necessarily when I’m saying somebody would eat more than three times per day. Once you go over three, typically it could be sort of smaller meals that they’re eating four, six times per day, but that can also include just snacking as well. I’m just saying anytime you stop fasting, meaning you eat anything, that’s what I would consider times that you’re eating per day.
If somebody’s got this low blood sugar going on, that’s definitely a reason why they may end up eating more times per day whether that’s a snack or a meal. But like Laura said, a lot of times this can happen if they can’t even go three hours, a lot of times that’s just because they’re not eating enough at some of their meals. We would go over their calorie intake, look at what’s going on there, see how much they’re eating.
Just as an example, sometimes people won’t eat a big breakfast and then they’re wondering why they can’t make it till 1:00 to eat lunch. It’s like well you ate 200 calories for breakfast, so no wonder you’re starving by 11:00 or 10:00 if you ate at 8:00 or so. It’s really important to look at how many calories you’re eating at each specific meal and then you’re overall caloric intake as well.
But essentially we want to figure out the least amount times that somebody can eat that’s still keeps their blood sugar stable. That will mean that we’re going to look at their calorie intake per meal. We might work on increasing that to see if that helps them go longer between meals, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it truly is just issues with hypoglycemia that eating more calories doesn’t necessarily fix. Those kind of people, they may just need to eat some snacks in between meals and still keep their overall caloric intake within a range that makes sense for them, but split it up through more times per day that they’re actually sitting down and eating something. But to allow the migrating motor complex to work as well as it can, I like to keep that to the lowest amount of times possible.
That’s just from the perspective of not wanting to have to feel like you’re eating literally constantly. People generally want to eat the least amount of times per day as they can as well.
Laura:Yeah. I think that’s why intermittent fasting is so popular because it’s like, oh, I don’t have to eat a meal. It takes some effort out of my morning for me. I find that that’s the same for me. I know mentioned, gosh I feel like it was months ago, but I did that vegan fast thing for my church and I was just eating nonstop all day and it was awful. I was like I can’t deal with this. I just hate eating so much.
Kelsey:Yeah, it’s a pain.
Laura:I don’t means so much volume wise, I mean just frequency and having to think about eating every couple of hours. The less you have to think about food I think is always better, with the understanding that there’s some amount of times you have to eat to function.
Laura:You can’t just not eat and function during the day. But anything you can do to condense those frequency I think is usually good for most people.
Kelsey:Yeah, absolutely. Going back to calories for a second here, another reason why somebody might end up eating more than three times a day is also if they just have a really hard time getting all their calories in just three meals per day. This could be somebody who’s trying to gain weight, or it could be somebody who has been under eating for a really long time so their digestive capacity isn’t up to speed quite yet. Eating what to us we would consider a full meal for them meaning that it’s a breakdown of their overall calories within three meals per day, that could just feel like a lot to their digestive system at that point.
We may want to split that up into three meals plus a snack or two to get their calories. What that generally looks like is of course splitting your calories between three meals per day, and then if that feels like too much to eat at a meal, taking out maybe 200 calories from one meal, 200 calories from another and having two snacks with those 200 calories between meals can make a lot of sense for somebody because it’ll end up just feeling more comfortable for them.
For somebody who’s like an athlete who just really has to eat a lot of calories every day to keep up with their activity level, it can be really tough to just eat three times per day and get all those calories just from again a comfort standpoint here. That’s where you may end up eating more than three times per day when really there’s no underlying health condition that would mean that you need to do that, but just from a comfort standpoint you’re going to feel much better splitting up your caloric intake a little bit more.
Just with the people who have an under eating for a long time, they will usually start like I said by adding a couple snacks in between just to kind of gradually get them to feeling a little bit better when they’re eating larger meals overtime. Eventually I do like to get them to the point where they can those calories in three meals per day and maybe one snack rather than two or three.
Again, over time with those people I’m generally pulling them back in terms of the amount of meals or snacks per day that they’re eating to allow more fasted time. But at the end of the day, if they just feel better eating more times per day because they want to just eat some snacks and have their meals, that’s completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with eating that way. I just like to if possible again leave more fasted time just to help the digestive system work a little bit better.
On other end of the spectrum here is who needs to eat less than three meals per day. Usually the reason why you would end up eating less than three meals per day is because they’re doing some type of intermittent fasting. We have a whole episode on this so you guys can listen. We’ll link to that episode on intermittent fasting because there are different ways of doing this, but for a lot of people that looks like just skipping the first meal of the day.
Some of the reasons why you might do that are reasons like if you’ve got insulin resistance, it can help a little bit with that. If you’re trying to lose weight, just not thinking about food as much only eating twice a day within a certain time frame, still getting the right amount of calories, it’s not like we’re just skipping a meal necessarily. You’re still eating the right amount of calories for you given that you’re trying to lose weight within that time period. But that can be helpful for a lot of people when they’re trying to lose weight.
Again, those with digestive issues. If we want to leave more fasted for the migrating motor complex to work, intermittent fasting can be a good choice, but I will definitely say that it is not necessary at all. I don’t want to make it sound like it is necessary to have good digestive health that you need to do some degree of intermittent fasting. It’s absolutely not. You can eat three meals per day, you can even eat some snacks. You’re going to have some fasted time in there. It’s going to make the migrating motor complex do its job. Don’t worry about that. Don’t feel like you need to do some intermittent fasting to help the migrating motor complex. It will do its work.
But a reason I would think more about intermittent fasting for some people with digestive issues is for example if I have a client who has recurrent SIBO infections, so they’re very likely to get SIBO infections over and over and over again. I’ve definitely had clients like this. There’s some thought that either the migrating motor complex, like the nerves there can be damaged to some degree so that it doesn’t work as well, or maybe they have some sort of gut structural issue that causes them to be more likely to get SIBO reinfections. Those are the people that I would maybe think okay, maybe we should leave some more fasted time than just a normal person or even somebody who has had SIBO once but isn’t really prone to reinfection.
For those kind of people doing intermittent fasting or at least some type of lengthened fasting can be helpful. But for most people, even if you have had SIBO or you have had gut dysbiosis or anything like that, typically not necessary for the migrating motor complex to do its job. I just want to make that really clear. I don’t want to make it seem like you need to do that.
Laura:One thing about the fasting, I think sometimes people tend to look at it as you’re either doing intermittent fasting or you’re not. But you can just have a couple days during the week that you do it.
Laura:You don’t necessarily have to do it every single day to get the benefits. For some people doing fasting may not line up well on the days that for example they exercise because they need more calories. But if you have a pretty low key lazy day and you don’t need those extra calories and you want to do some fasting for any of the reasons that Kelsey just mentioned, it’s okay to do it once in a while.
I know I’ll sometimes not have my first meal until noon just randomly. It’s not planned or anything like that. It’s not like if we’re talking about intermittent fasting, it either has be all the time or never at all. There’s a lot of different options for that. Some people will do it once a week and that’s all they do.
Kelsey:Right, exactly. Good point. Okay. So those are some of the reasons that you might eat more than three meals per day or less than three meals per day. This person was also asking about how do you determine your schedule for eating. Do you just listen to your hunger signals or do you have some sort of set schedule or plan?
I think for me, what I like to encourage is for people to listen to their hunger signals because of course we have those hunger signals for a reason. I like that intuitive way of eating, really paying attention to your body’s signals overall and that includes of course when your body is telling you that it’s hungry. That’s my preference, but there are definitely some reasons why you may need to be on more of a schedule than just listening to your body.
One of those examples is for people with low blood sugar. For them when they are really having trouble controlling their blood sugar issues, it can be helpful to be on a schedule or at least a little bit more of a schedule than just truly only listening to your hunger signals because it can help to preemptively prevent a blood sugar crash rather than them having to deal with the crash after the fact and just bringing their blood sugar back up.
We want to of course prevent the blood sugar crashes as much as possible. It’s going to be more comfortable for them. They’re more easily able to stick within whatever calorie needs that they actually need to eat because sometimes when you have a blood sugar crash, it’s like just give me anything, I need to get my blood sugar up, which is of course the more imminent thing that you need to deal with. But overtime if you’re doing that consistently, a lot of people can end up over what they’re calorie needs actually are as well. I think that that’s one instance where it can be helpful to be on a little bit more of a schedule than just listening to your hunger signals.
And then also if you’re having trouble eating enough calories because for these people just listening to their hunger signals, it might tell them maybe when they’re supposed to eat, but it won’t give them signals that they need to eat as much as they probably do need to eat. For these people, like I said before they’re going to probably need to eat more often and sometimes that might mean eating when they’re not necessarily feeling super hungry. That’s another instance where you may end up eating a little off from your actual hunger signals, but it ends up being a lot more comfortable for them. They end up hitting their goals a lot more easily.
But for everybody else, I would say listening to your hunger signals usually works pretty well. I’m sure there’s other things that I’m not thinking about right now, but those are the two that really stand out to me as when you would want to be on a little bit more of a schedule. But for most people, listening to your hunger signals is a pretty good way of doing things.
Laura:I have one additional comment about the hunger signals thing. This is from personal experience as well as client experience. If you’re the kind of person that your appetite is negatively impacted by stress, I think that’s another time where having a schedule can work really well because I know for me when I’m really busy, which is lately all the time, not every single day, but it’s been pretty consistent in the last couple months, but if I don’t kind of schedule lunch into my calendar, I can easily go until 2:00 or 3:00 before I am actually experiencing the kind of symptoms that are from inadequate food intake.
I say symptoms because for me it’s not really hunger. I mean sometimes it is, but usually it’s other symptoms that I haven’t eaten. Like for me, I get really cold. That’s like the first sign that I need to eat more. I’ll just feel my hands get cold, I start to shiver a little bit even if the temperature in the room hasn’t changed at all.
Laura:I don’t personally get headaches, but I know that’s definitely a symptom of things like low blood sugar and not eating enough.
Laura:I think brain fog would probably be more of a cognitive symptom for me personally, but again, this is just my personal experience. There’s a lot of different ways that these inadequate food intake symptoms can come up.
I’ll talk about this in a second, but for me it also tends to affect my workouts because I do have a regular workout schedule. If I need to make sure I’m eating a certain amount of times prior to that workout, I have to schedule it. I can’t just wait until I’m hungry because I may not be hungry until right before I go to the gym.
For me I’d say I tend to schedule meals as much as I can at least during the week. Maybe on weekends I’m a little bit more flexible because my schedule is a lot looser and depending on the weather, depending on what I have going on that weekend, it may change when I eat. But generally during the week, I literally put it into my calendar to eat lunch because if I don’t, things can happen. When you run your own business, you can fill your whole schedule up for the whole day if you wanted to.
For me it’s just really important to make sure that I actually set aside that time because a lot of times if I don’t, it’s too late. By the time I realize that I needed food, it’s like I’ve already caused the problems that are caused by not eating enough.
Laura:I think that’s just something important to realize that it’s not always just about hunger. A lot of my inadequate food intake clients especially struggle with not having appetite during the times that they should be eating. The typically healthy, non-stressed person is going to have regular appetite signaling. But again, if you’re like me and your appetite tends to get negatively impacted by being stressed or busy, you really do need to consider scheduling.
Obviously if you’re not hungry at all, you don’t have to force feed yourself tons of food, but having some kind of schedule of eating I think is super important for preventing the problems that are associated with having that eventual blood sugar crash that comes when you haven’t eating enough.
Kelsey:Right. I would say actually on the other side of the spectrum too, if you are somebody who when you’re under stress you tend to overeat because you’re just kind of emotional eating, I think scheduling your meals can make sense too because then you just know okay, this is when I’m supposed to eat, this is when I’m going to go eat lunch, this is when I’m going to have a snack. And even maybe thinking about what you might have as a snack can help to potentially prevent some of the overeating that might happen as a result of being stressed as well.
Laura:Well I think like you were saying before, a lot of the recommendations you made are going to work well for most people. The three meals a day I think is pretty culturally normal.
Laura:I think that’s really where most cultural norms have kind of settled on. I don’t think snacking a ton is normal for most other societies. I mean there might be some level of snacking, but I think American’s kind of have this snack obsession that a lot of other countries don’t have.
Laura: I don’t think snacks are bad, but I think we need to try to have a regular meal pattern that’s not either eating all day grazing, or skipping meals and having these problems that come from either inadequate food intake or going really long without eating and then essentially bingeing later.
The average person, three meals a day, maybe a snack is going to work for most people. Now there’s a couple of different reasons that extra meals may be necessary. Kelsey kind of touched on one of them which would be workout needs for higher calories, but the extra calories is one part of it. I think meal timing around workouts is another thing people need to consider.
Depending on when you work out, you may need to adjust your meal timing. That’s something I was just mentioning a few minutes ago where for me a lot of my weekday workouts are afternoons. They’re at like 1:00, 1:30, which is somewhat unusual for the average person. I tend to like working out at that time because it’s a nice break from the first chunk of work during the day and then I can do some more work later. But that means I need to eat lunch at least an hour beforehand so that way I’m not still digesting a ton by the time I get to work out and I’ll also have enough time to get that food into my bloodstream so that it’s actually available as fuel.
I’d say most people end up working out in the morning before work, or in the evening after work, or about at lunch time. Those are the three most common times for people to be working out. Depending on what time you work out, you may need to adjust your eating schedule and also the timing of certain types of foods that you would be eating.
If you’re working out before work and you don’t like to have breakfast before working out, I would say you need to be cautious about what type workouts you’re doing if you’re not going to eat. If you are doing the type of workouts that need fuel to have better performance and better stress response, then either getting a snack a little bit before the workout, having some kind of carb and protein containing beverage during the workout is an option, or making sure that you’re eating enough the night before to cover that workout in the morning.
I think there’s this assumption that especially if you’re trying to lose weight that you should be working out fasted because it burns more fat. Technically you do burn more fat for fuel if you are working out fasted, however burning fat for fuel doesn’t necessarily translate into burning fat off your body or your storage.
Laura:Really if you’re trying to lose weight, the amount of calories that you eat for the whole day is going to play much more of a role than whether or not you’re fasted and burning fat during the workout. If you’re doing a really high intensity workout either of heavy weight training or HIIT training like sprints or just intervals in general, you’re not going to generally perform as well if you’re fasted. There is just that glucose need for those types of workouts that if you’re fasted your body is not going to necessarily going to be able to create the level of glucose you need for optimal performance.
It depends on what your goals are. I’d say most people really benefit from having some amount of food before exercising. Generally you’re going to want to eat some kind of balanced meal or snack within two hours of the training time. If you’re working out in the morning, maybe you need to have a small amount of food before going to the gym. Or again, if it’s as simple as making some kind of beverage that has some sort of protein and carb blend, that can help. It is better than nothing.
And then if you’re working out in the afternoon or the evening, just making sure that you’re not having your last meal prior to two hours to that training. If you’re working out at 6:00, try to have a snack around 4:00, 4:30, something like that.
Or if you’re working out like I do around lunchtime, either having a snack before the workout and then having lunch after. Or if it’s just after that lunchtime like the 1:00, 1:30, making sure again lunch by noon if you’re going to be working out at that time. Again, just looking at your workout schedule and trying to make sure you’re not going in without having eaten I guess like I said within two hours of training.
This is specifically for that high intensity type of workout. If you’re doing something like long, slow, steady state cardio like a long walk, or a jog, or a bike, elliptical machine for 30-45 minutes and you’re not going super high speed, you probably don’t have to worry about it so much because those workouts can run on fatty acids as a fuel type and you’ll be fine. If that’s really your typical workout, you don’t have to worry about eating beforehand. But if you’re doing things like Cross Fit, or powerlifting, or high intensity intervals, that’s where you really want to make sure you’re timing the food intake at most two hours before the exercise itself.
Kelsey:Yeah. I was just going to say that for a while I was going to powerlifting classes that were either at 5:45 or 6:45. I learned very quickly that I needed a snack sometime between when I was eating lunch. I typically am a late lunch eater, so maybe around like 2:00, 3:00 I may eat lunch. But even then, if I was doing a workout at like 5:45 or 6:45, I generally found that I preformed a lot better when I added a midafternoon, or I guess if I was eating at 3, more like an evening snack before I went to the class and then ate dinner afterward, that worked out a lot better.
Laura:Like I said, if your goal is to lose body fat, working out fasted for people who are very overweight I think it can be helpful to help them tap into that body fat. I almost wonder if that’s more of a metabolic issue that an actual calorie burn issue. But if you’re just trying to lose 10, 15, 20 pounds or less, I mean some people are really just trying to lose like 5 pounds, working out fasted is not going to benefit that.
Again, it’s really about the total calories at the end of the day. Being in a deficit but not going into workouts hungry or totally not fueled, because that’s going to impact your ability to push yourself. You’re going to feel more tired and weak. Especially it’s generally about 20 minutes into your training that you’re going to start hitting that wall. A lot of people call it bonking. You’re generally not going to be able to push yourself into any sort of high performance zone with working out.
You can kind of phone it in for a workout and you’ll be fine. It’s not like you’re going to get nothing out of it. But I think that people that do train at a higher level, they’re going to notice a difference between a high performance, high energy workout compared to one that they’re bonking. You’re not going to see as good muscle gain or cardiovascular gain if you’re not able to push yourself into that higher performance zone.
Generally eating is going to help with the performance which will then show more fitness improvement, and hypothetically that’ll help with body composition goals. And then the other issue is if you’re pushing yourself really hard without the appropriate fuel, you do risk raising your stress hormones, so things like cortisol and adrenaline to help provide that glucose that you need for your workout. That can definitely cause problems in the long run not only with health, but also with body composition.
You’re kind of actually in the long run hurting your progress if you’re always going into a workout fasted. Once in a while, it’s not going to kill you obviously. But if you’re doing it all the time with the goal of leaning out, you’re actually probably doing worse for yourself than if you were to eat before the training session. That’s pre workout. Again, that can be a meal, that can be a snack.
Post workouts, the same way. It doesn’t have to be full meal. Although some people do like to have a meal afterwards as their recovery meal. It is recommend to have some type of high protein meal or snack within two hours of training especially if you are doing the high intensity, heavier type of training. Some people think they have to eat within 30 minutes of working out to get the protein into their muscles, but that’s not accurate. It’s really you have a good two hour windows so you don’t have to slam a protein shake right after working out to get the benefit.
But you don’t want to wait hours after you work out to eat something. There are people that will work out at like 5:00 and then they’ll eat dinner at 8:00 or something, and that’s really waiting too long. Or maybe they go in the morning and they work out and they’re not super hungry after because sometimes exercise can actually suppress your appetite and then you don’t eat until lunch or something. You don’t want to be skipping the post workout meal.
I think that’s another myth in the health community that if you don’t eat after your workout that you’ll prolong the fat burning after the workout. Which hypothetically is true, but I think in the long term, it actually causes more harm than good for body composition goals, especially for women.
Stefani Ruper of Paleo for Women has a really good article that we’ll link to about how fasting after training actually increases testosterone in women. Which if you have low testosterone, it’s hard to say whether or not this would be harmful or not. But most women at least in the younger premenopausal years, they actually don’t want to get too much testosterone because that can cause PCOS type symptoms, so things like acne, weight gain, irregular periods, that kind of thing.
If you are having PCOS type symptoms, and you’re not overweight, and you work out a lot, you might want to look at your meal timing after working out to make sure you’re not fasting for too long after training. And basically the evidence that she has shows that women who repeatedly fast after workouts experience significant long term testosterone elevation. So again, not a great hormonal situation if you are experiencing those PCOS type symptoms.
And then the other benefit of eating post workout is that it does reduce muscle soreness. If you’re experiencing a lot of soreness after workouts, look at how soon you’re eating afterwards. I would also say if you’re not gaining strength or muscle size if that’s a goal to look at that as well. Because again, if you’re not eating within two hours of training, you’re not maximizing your amino acid uptake into the muscles post training. When you train, you do break down muscle tissue and it needs to get rebuilt and the maximum rebuilding time is within that two hours of post training window.
I would say if you are training with any sort of frequency, I say frequency literally if your training like twice a week is probably a good way to think about this, and just make sure that you’re timing your meals and snacks pre and post workout appropriately so that way you are maximizing your performance at the workout and then also minimizing the negative hormonal effects of fasting pre or post workout.
That’s kind of the workout side of things. Kelsey, do you have anything to add before I add one more little thing to think about
Kelsey:I don’t think so, but I think that’s a really good point. You got to think about that. Like I said, my experience for sure and definitely when I worked with clients, I think it does make a really, really big difference just even from a performance, like how good…or not even performance. I guess I’d say just how good you feel during your workout, like how pleasurable the workout is and not making your feel like crap when you’re working out. Making sure that you’re eating around your workout makes a big difference.
Laura:Definitely. Alright. The last potential timing adjustment that you want to think about is the bedtime snack, which I know we’ve talked about in the past. Both of us use bedtime snacks in our clients frequently. I wouldn’t say all the time, but pretty frequently.
I find that people who are having trouble sleeping oftentimes can benefit from a bedtime snack, especially if they’re finding that they’re either having a hard time falling asleep or if they’re waking up around like 2:00 in the morning or a couple of hours after falling asleep. The reason that the bedtime snack can help is because it helps keep your blood sugar steady overnight.
If you didn’t eat enough during the day or if you are having blood sugar dysregulation, a lot of times you’ll have the issue of either just waking up for no reason in the middle of the night or some people will wake up hungry, which is think that’s a pretty clear sign that you need to eat something. But it’s not always. I think people expect to be hungry if they’re having a low blood sugar, but again, it doesn’t happen that way.
The other thing that can happen overnight if you’re having a blood sugar drop is actually having to get up to pee. That could affect your night time urination. Getting up to pee once and a while is not abnormal, but if it’s every single night or if it’s more than once a night, you really need to think about the bedtime snack thing.
Again, if you’re finding yourself waking up in the middle of the night and you don’t know why, try the bedtime snack. Basically that is just eating within 30-60 minutes of going to bed. It doesn’t have to be a meal, it can just be a small snack or kind of desert type of thing. A lot of things I’ll recommend generally having some carbs with either fat or protein on the side. That can be things like a banana and a tablespoon of nut butter, or a cup of frozen berries with some coconut milk drizzled on top, or something like that.
It’s not anything crazy, it doesn’t have to be cheesecake or something. But having some kind of light dessert or a small snack, like I know some of my clients like to do a half of sweet potato with some butter on it. Super simple, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy.
Some of the snack bar type things can be helpful. I know when I’m feeling hungry before going to bed, I’ll have an RX bar or something just to get a little carbs and protein before bed to help me sleep better. This is something where not everyone is going to need a bedtime snack. There’s a couple of different things that are going to affect your need for a bedtime snack. Snacking in general as Kelsey was mentioning before can be affected by your total calorie intake for the day. If you’re struggling to get enough calories, having some food before bed can be helpful. If you’re under a lot of stress and your blood sugar is dysregulated because of stress, sometimes having a little bit of food before you go to bed can sometimes help. Especially if it helps you sleep better, that’ll help with your stress resilience.
The days that I work out, I notice I tend to be more hungry before bed. Again, if you’re working out really hard and you’re struggling to get in enough food during the day, having a bedtime snack can definitely help with your sleep. Sleep is super important for your recovery, so if you’re working out pretty regularly and intensely, you should consider doing the bedtime snack.
But again, I think mainly the people who want to look at the bedtime are anyone who’s struggling with sleep issues. Because again, not everyone is going to have this problem, but a lot of people are experiencing blood sugar drops overnight that are causing them to wake up. That would be something to try out if you are struggling with sleep or either not falling asleep well, being hungry before bed or overnight, or if you’re just waking up for no reason, having to pee, that kind of thing. That would be a time where even if you’re not hungry, trying out a bedtime snack can be helpful.
Again, that kind of goes outside of the eating when hungry recommendation, but as we said a few times in this episode, eating when you’re hungry is not always the best indicator of meal timing. Something to try. It may not work for you, but a lot of our clients really do benefit from that so it’s something worth experimenting with if you are struggling with sleep quality.
Kelsey:I would say we’ve had a lot of luck with this recommendation. And especially for those people who have been in our Paleo Rehab program, I think this is one of the things we hear a lot of good feedback on. As people go through the program they’re like, oh my gosh, the bedtime snack made such a big difference! I feel like I can sleep through the night, it’s amazing!
Yeah, for sure, if you are having trouble sleeping in anyway, I would say it’s at least worth experimenting with to see if it helps because we’ve just seen so many clients and participants of our program that just have benefitted immensely.
Laura:Yeah. I think this tends to be another issue where people that are trying to lose weight don’t want to eat before bed because they’ve learned from Oprah or whoever that eating after 5 pm is going to turn all into fat, which is total BS.
Laura:Don’t think that eating before bed is automatically going to make you fat or something. It’s great if you can get all your meals in before bed, and you can eat enough, and sleep well, and all of that, but eating a snack before bed is not going to be some fat gaining issue.
Laura:I hate when people are afraid to eat before bed because they’re like I heard you’re not supposed to eat at night and it all turns into fat. Which is total garbage. Again, I don’t like to be all about calories, but I think people do need to realize that most of weight gain is a calorie imbalance for various reasons. It’s not always that you’re over eating, it can be that you’re under expending. But people who are struggling with under eating really need to be okay with the bedtime snack idea.
Kelsey:Absolutely, I know. It’s BS guys, it’s BS. We’ll leave it at that.
Laura:Yes. It’s one of the myths that we’ll bust today.
Laura:Well hopefully that answers this lady’s question. If you do have any further questions about meal timing or any of this stuff that we talked about today, please go to TheAncestralRDS.com. We have a contact tab. You can submit your question through that and we will potentially answer it on an upcoming show. Now we will get into our updates for the week.
Now it’s time for our updates. We’ve had a little bit of an interesting experience with our updates in the last couple of months/the last however many years we’ve been doing podcasting. We’ve been bouncing around a little bit with the updates and we definitely want you guys to keep giving us your feedback about things because at the end of the day we want to make the show what you guys want, not necessarily what we think is optimal or whatever our little Google searches on “how to do a podcast” come up with.
I guess a couple of weeks ago we published our 100th episode that was basically like a massive update. We did get some interesting feedback about that episode from people who are frequent listeners/people that have been listening to our podcast for the whole time that’s it’s been on the air. Some of our more loyal listeners have mentioned that they really do like the updates…which is good, I’m glad that you guys are enjoying this part of it…with some people saying that they like them in the beginning because they felt like it was a more personable intro. And then other people said that they understand why we are moving the updates to the end because with newbies or people that don’t really want to hear about our personal lives or our businesses, that way they can hang up on the call or the podcast and they don’t have to necessarily listen through that to get to the meat of the episode.
If you guys do have a strong opinion about this, if you’re one of our loyal listeners who is still on the air right now, just let us know what you think. If you really, really, really want the updates in the beginning, please let us know because we’re definitely willing to move them back there. But if you do feel like where we’ve moved them to the end of the show has been working fine for you and you still enjoy listening to this part of the show, just let us know. Like I said, your feedback is really helpful and the more information we get from you guys about what you want, the better we can make this show for you.
With that, Kelsey, do you have any updates for us?
Kelsey:Really on the spot there. Yeah! As a lot of people that are listeners know, I’ve been working on my Build Your Biome program and I did a beta run of that. By the time this podcast comes out, we’ll actually most likely be in their second launch of it. But when we are recording this, I am just finishing up the content for the first beta run. They’re in week seven right now. They just started week seven and it’s an eight week program.
I just finished everything, which is super excited and feels really, really great because it’s more content first of all than we have in Paleo Rehab because Paleo Rehab is a five week program. This is eight weeks and it’s just been so much work that I have just been sort of driving myself a little bit crazy trying to get it all done and really make sure it’s something I’m super proud of. It’s just been a lot and it feels amazing to be pretty much done with that.
I’m really looking forward to launching it again soon for more people to join because we had 50 people in the beta. It’s actually a really good size for a beta I think because I’ve gotten a lot of awesome feedback. As you know, Laura, doing a beta group is really all about the feedback. It’s incredibly helpful to just see what people like, what they dislike, what they felt maybe was missing, or the kind of ah-ha moments that they’re getting that maybe for me was like, oh of course I’ll include this, it’s probably something everybody knows. But for some people, it’s mind blowing information that really makes a difference for them.
It’s been really interesting to see the feedback. I’ve sent out a couple feedback forms to everybody in the course so far and then I’ll do a big overview feedback form at the end of the course next week. I’m really looking forward to seeing what people have to say, but so far the feedback has been really amazing and really helpful.
I’m going to do a little bit of changes to the course, like maybe add a couple things. I don’t think it’ll be anything major. I’m actually really happy so far with people saying that the information I’ve included has been exactly what they were looking for, which is always a little bit hard to guess exactly what people are looking for, but I think I did a pretty good job with that, or so it seems with the feedback. That’s really great too and it means that of course I don’t have to change too, too much about it.
Like I said, really I think I’m going to actually just add a couple things and that’s going to be it, which means that I get to launch it again really soon which is exciting. You guys will probably, by this time this comes out you’ll have seen those emails and everything and possibly you’re in my course now. If you are, I’m super happy to have you and excited to do this with you guys again.
I’ve been going back and forth. Originally I had been thinking that this course would turn into a course that’s always offered and doesn’t have a live component to it. But doing this first beta round live made me realize that at least for now I think I’m going to keep it live because I’ve really been liking doing the live Q & A’s and that’s what I got a lot a lot of great feedback on from people who are like, those are amazing! They’re super helpful, it helps to personalize the course for people.
At least for now, I’m going to keep it that way until I can figure out if there’s things that I could add that would help people get that degree of personalization without me being there, which maybe be impossible, we’ll see. But since I’m enjoying it now, it’s something that’s easy enough for me to do once a week, I’m going to keep doing it. And I like the comradery that goes along with doing a live course too. That’s what I’m thinking, but we’ll see how it progresses.
For any of you listening that run your own online business or you’re a nutritionist thinking about doing courses like this, I have to say that courses for me are incredibly fulfilling, even if it’s incredibly stressful at the same time, I really liked making this course and I feel really proud of all the work that I’ve put into it. I did a word count of all the videos that I wrote up and it’s 40,000 words, which is crazy!
Laura:Oh my gosh! It sounds like you could just put that into a book.
Kelsey:I was telling my husband the other day, I was like I looked up the average word count for a non-fiction book and it’s 40,000 words and I just wrote 40,000 words for this course. It’s pretty much a book, although I’m sure it’s not as tight as a book would be and it would be cleaned up a lot if it was turned into a book.
Laura:Maybe that’s your next project.
Kelsey:It very well might be I think. That’s a really big accomplishment and it feels great to say I did this. I put all this work into this and I’m so proud of it. The fact that people are now telling me that like I said, it’s exactly what they were looking for, it makes me feel really good to say it that way.
Laura:Yeah, that’s awesome!
Kelsey:I’m really looking forward to the next round. For the foreseeable future it will be live but it may eventually turn into an evergreen course. I think it’ll be launched or I’ll have groups going a little bit more often than we did for Paleo Rehab because for Paleo Rehab, Laura, do you remember how often we did that in the first year? Did we only do it twice?
Laura:I think we did it twice. I’m trying to remember if it was two or three times. We had the beta group.
Laura:And then I know we had at least one launch. I don’t remember if we had a second.
Kelsey:I don’t either. I think it’ll be more often than that, though of course this is a two month program so there’s only a certain amount of times we can fit that into a year.
Laura:Yeah, although you can technically, you can overlap it.
Kelsey:Right, that’s true too.
Laura:I think the reason we didn’t launch Paleo Rehab as frequently is because organizing both of our schedules to fit that course is a lot harder than just you deciding I’m going to do my Q&As on these days and stuff. For your individual program, you could probably launch it as frequently as you wanted to with the live Q&As running whenever it fits your calendar.
Laura:Although I would think you wouldn’t want to run it too often because the size of the group probably helps for that community aspect. You don’t want to be like having three people going though it at a time or something like that.
Kelsey:Yeah, exactly. The other interesting thing that I realized going through the beta group is that the people who are joining my course are all along the spectrum of where they are in their journey. Some people already know they have SIBO or something like that and then there’s some people who are total beginners.
The other piece of this is that I realized I’m going to have to like we did with Paleo Rehab allow people that if they want to waive their right to a refund, they can just access the whole course at once because I’ve set it up very chronologically starting from the beginning phase of if you just have symptoms and you have no idea why, then walk through this process and you can figure it all out. But for some people they are like halfway through that process and while the beginning stuff is still really helpful for them, that next piece of information that they need is maybe like halfway through the course.
I think that’s the other piece of it too for me is I learned that that’s definitely got to be an option, which I’m fine with. But it’s always a fine balance of do I try to convince this person to walk through it step by step or just say go ahead and grab all the information that you need. Because I think that when you do that, that step by step stuff is so important for some people because otherwise they’ll just miss the stuff that honestly ends up being the most important for them. It’s a fine line, but I think I determined that I’m going to have to allow people to do that since they’re further along in their journey.
Laura:I think sometimes people will think they know what they need and they want what they think they want. There’s something to be said for that, but then there’s also the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you want to skip through content and then you just never look at it because you have ten or twelve weeks or whatever it ends up being of stuff to look at, and you go straight to week five and you skip week one through four, yeah maybe it’ll be okay, but there may be stuff that you missed that you didn’t realize was important.
I definitely feel like in group programs having that week by week setup is better. But like you said if you want to give people the option, it’s their choice if they want to go outside of the structure that you set for them.
Kelsey:Yeah, exactly. Overall it’s been going really well even though it’s so much work. But I’m really happy now because I can feel like I can kind of slow down, although now I’m like now I have to think about…
Laura:Now what’s next?
Kelsey:Yeah, how do I get more people to the group? How do I help more people? All of that. Now it’s a whole different ballgame I guess. But it does feel really great to be finished with the content at the very least.
Laura:I literally just started my…market research I guess for what my program is going to be. Hearing you talk about it I’m like, oh my gosh, I have so much to do! I am starting from scratch. I’m sure I’ll have more time to focus on it than I do right now, but it’s just kind of like a little… I think it can be daunting to look at stuff when you’re starting. I think that’s relevant to anything that you’re looking at doing.
Looking back on it when you’ve finished, it’s like I’m so glad I did it! I know it was a lot of work, but it was so worth it. It’s just getting over that hump of procrastination in the beginning where you’re like this is going to be so much, but I have to do it!
Kelsey:Yeah, the other thing too is that for me I think I started off only thinking it was going to be a six week course and it wasn’t even sure if I wanted to make it that long. And then of course it turned into eight weeks. I think you have to think it’s going to be shorter and easier than it ends up being, and then you’re not quite as overwhelmed when you first start.
Kelsey:Just tell yourself it’s going to be really easy, it’s only going to be four weeks, and then it’ll turn into a massive program, but you won’t notice.
Laura:I feel like I’ll probably take a lot longer to finish it than you, but that’s just because I’m the biggest procrastinator on the face of the earth.
Kelsey:Me too. This was years in the making, but just in my brain. As soon as I actually started, that’s when things had to really get going.
Laura:Well, I’m excited for you! I’m excited to see the program and see what kind of results people get. Hopefully next time we can update about more launches or timelines for that so that people listening can get in on it as well if they’re not already on your list. But imagine if they’re on your email list, they’ll get announcements about that, right?
Kelsey:They will, yeah.
Laura:Cool. Well, thanks for the update, Kelsey! We will see everybody here next week!
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