Why Late-Night Eating Isn’t Actually So Bad

The idea that “when you eat” matters just as much as quality and quantity of it is a popular one.

Lots of research has proven that the 2-to-3-hour period after a workout, for example, is ideal for protein and carbohydrate consumption, as the body can most effectively metabolize food during this anabolic state — some studies suggest this period can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, depending on the workout and the individual’s metabolism.

So, if eating around a workout is so beneficial because your body is instantly using the calories you’re giving it, then eating before bed must be an automatic no-no, right? Well, no. Still, this concept has become quite the rage, in fact, over the last few years; it’s not uncommon to see even educated bodybuilder and athlete types avoiding calories altogether in the hours before going to sleep.

This is a mistake.

Yes, the type of calories that are usually consumed at this time are low-quality calories. This is dessert time, when a person is most likely to be on the couch, mindlessly destroying chips or cookies. Let’s say you do this the second you wake up instead. Would you really consider this “better?” Of course not. So chalking up weight gain because of nighttime eating in this case would not be telling the whole story. The quality and quantity of the food being eaten is what matters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is not known for being the bastion of health knowledge we once thought it was, but we would side with it on its support of a “calorie-in, calorie-out” concept of eating to fight obesity.

Not everybody can sleep on a full stomach — loss of sleep or restlessness while digesting would be an example of bad evidence against nighttime eating. But the calorie consumption itself isn’t the culprit.  Sleep deprivation and the rise in cortisol levels that comes with it can affect body fat negatively. Ideally, you wouldn’t eat a large, energy-packed meal right before bed (so a stack of pancakes is out). But a small serving of cottage cheese or a protein shake? It’s highly unlikely these would contribute to body fat gain overnight.

Additionally, the concept of periodic eating every few hours seems to be ignored when considering nighttime eating. While eating these frequent small meals will not directly assist in weight loss, it does help prevent the gigantic binge meal most of us have at dinner after not having eaten in 6-8 hours. Consistent, frequent eating of small snacks regulates blood sugar and controls hunger. A real-life example of how not to do this would be swearing off all food after 8 p.m.; your best-case scenario (if you’re getting adequate sleep, eating your last bite at 8 p.m. and waking up with a forkful of food in your mouth) would be nine to 10 consecutive hours of fasting. Not exactly keeping in stride with the plan there, is it?

It can be intriguing to follow in-vogue nutrition concepts as the health and food industries continue to evolve, and research will continue to suggest new methods for people to try in the effort to control their physiques and health. But in this case, the relation to eating before bed and weight gain has mostly shown to be anecdotal, and more of an indictment against the amount and type of food being eaten than the time at which it is consumed.

The NUTRISHOP Hard-Gainer Trainer

Those of us who are naturally more thin and lean and have trouble adding and maintaining weight of any kind are called “hard gainers,” and we’ve got the workout and supplement plan for you!

The goal every time you hit the gym should be hypertrophy — the increase in muscle volume. To achieve this on a lean frame, you won’t be able to simply use a generic workout plan. Like all lanky guys experience when we clothes shop, you need something a bit more custom-fitted, tailored to you. Forget three sets of 10. We need to reach deep muscle fibers, building the slow-twitch ones larger and the fast-twitch ones stronger. To do that, we’ve set up this workout plan that will not only add size, strength and endurance of strength, but will provide just enough of a calorie burn to ensure that you’re not storing up fat.

Follow this plan for 4-6 weeks, and DO NOT cheat yourself — make every workout, do every set and get every rep. Anything less than full effort is a failure! It is a four-day split, with three rest days, ample time to get both physical and mental rest before you’re back in the gym, so there are no “burnout” excuses here.

Download and print out the .PDF version of this workout for easy gym use!

The supplement plan that works best for hard gainers is one that addresses the need for a calorie surplus, muscle recovery and rebuilding and even hormonal issues that aren’t as uncommon as you might think.

Absolutely, if you’re a hard gainer trying to build muscle fast, we recommend:

  • GAINER7, MASS COMPLEX, KARBOLYN or MASS FUZION — all effective at delivering quality calories in a hurry post-workout.

  • BCAA SPORT. Around the clock, your body needs amino acids to prevent catabolism, where the body feeds on muscle storage for energy.

  • N’FUZE  — Abundantly researched and shown to increase muscle volume and strength, there is no reason to pick a low-quality version of creatine anymore — it’s mostly a very affordable supplement. Kre-Alkalyn is a buffered form of creatine that ensures nearly 100 percent of this product goes to the muscles and doesn’t get converted into useless creatinin.

  • ANITEST, ARABOL, AUGMENT, 1-XD and HGH-191 are outstanding options to get your body back to growing, the natural way. Hard gainers are hard-wired to simply not produce much muscle mass. This can be changed with more natural testosterone production. As many lean guys can attest, during puberty there was one massive growth spike where we got taller and filled out (at least as much as we were going to). Natural testosterone, which caused that spike, decreases dramatically as men get older, leading to increases in body fat and decreases in muscle  mass.

  • Pre-workout products like N’SANE, NOX-P3, ANX-P3, STANCE and THERMOVEX deliver more energy, both of mind and body, for the most high-quality workouts you can get. Plus, the increased blood flow means your other supplements are working more efficiently.

THE TRAINING PLAN

MONDAY (Chest and Back)

5 Supersets: Wide-grip pull-ups (failure)/barbell bench press (x12). Clear the bar with your chin and lower yourself all the way down; likewise, on bench, pull the bar down to your chest and, without bouncing it, drive it back up. Perfect form is the biggest key.

5 Supersets: T-bar rows (x12)/dumbbell incline press (x12).

5 Supersets: Seated cable rows (x12)/dumbbell flys (x12).

TUESDAY (Legs and Abs)

5 Supersets: Wide-stance squats (x12)/narrow-stance leg press (x12). On the leg press, keeping your feet close together, toes pointed straight forward, will target the upper leg’s outer sweep more, while a wider squat with the toes pointed slightly outward allows for a deeper, more engaging movement.

5 Supersets: Romanian deadlifts (x12)/wall sits (x15 seconds).

5 Supersets: Hamstring curls (x12)/seated calf raises (x20).

3 Supersets: Hanging leg raises (x8)/decline crunches (x10)/planks (x30 seconds).

WEDNESDAY (Arms)

5 Trisets: EZ Bar Curls (x6)/French triceps press (x12)/Reverse-grip curls (x6)

3 Supersets: Weighted dips (to failure)/preacher curl machine (x25)

3 Trisets: Hammer curls (x10 per arm)/V-bar cable pushdowns (x20)/incline dumbbell curls (x10 per arm)

THURSDAY (Shoulders and Abs)

4 Supersets: Arnold Presses (x12)/Upright rows (x12)

Standing overhead press: 4×12

5 Supersets: Lateral raises (x15)/front raises (x15)

3 Trisets: Hanging leg raises (x10)/decline crunches (x12)/planks (x30 seconds)

 

Why Women Shouldn’t Do Intermittent Fasting

1204-sexy-core-1As research unfolds about intermittent fasting (IF), it becomes more and more compelling as a viable dietary plan for weight loss, leaner body composition and perhaps even muscle gain. However, it must be said, some of the research does indeed steer a certain group of people away from it: namely, women.

As we’ve stated before, one of the main reasons we’re interested in intermittent fasting from a fat-loss perspective is because it seems to promote increased insulin sensitivity — the studies we’ve looked at have all shown this trait, and it makes sense even dating back to our research on diabetes prevention. However, it also appears that the insulin sensitivity increase is gender-specific: Yes, males will get the benefit of a more responsive pancreas after periods of fasting, including sleep and fasted exercise. But a 2005 study from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge shows that while glucose tolerance is unchanged after fasting, women’s tolerance actually decreases — impaired glucose tolerance is a form of hyperglycemia that is a precursor to diabetes — and insulin response is virtually unchanged.

Another bit of research, a 2010 study from the Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health at Massey University in New Zealand, found that women also got little to no benefit from fasted resistance training, with men clearly displaying an advantage in skeletal muscle gain. (Source)

The theories as to why these changes alter the sexes differently, of course, relate to the relationship between regular food intake and hormone production. On top of quite a few IF responses from women who say that it caused them to have irregular periods, fatigue and stress, still more published works back it up. Tests in lab rats illustrate a picture of intermittent fasting wreaking havoc with females’ reproductive, sexual and hormonal systems:

In female rats: Any degree of nutritional stress (fasting or mere caloric restriction) causes increased wakefulness (during the day, when they normally sleep), better cognition (for finding food), hyper alertness, and more energy. In short, female rats become better at finding and acquiring food when they fast, as if their bodies aren’t as well-equipped to deal with the stress of going without food. They also become less fertile, while the males actually become hornier and more fertile (probably to account for the females’ plummeting fertility). Ovary size drops (bad for fertility), adrenal gland size increases (which in rats indicates exposure to chronic stress), and menstrual cycles begin to dysregulate in proportion to the degree of caloric restriction. (Source)

In light of the research and information available pertaining to intermittent fasting and its effects on female mammals, we can’t endorse IF as a sensible means for dietary planning for women. While the research looks promising for men, and many have reported great results from intermittent fasting, it appears women need to have a more steady dietary pattern, not only to achieve fitness results, but to maintain a healthy hormonal balance.

The Hormonal Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

IFEarlier, we introduced the concept of intermittent fasting, a dietary pattern that is gaining popularity because of its potential to aid fat loss. By limiting a day’s calories to a 4-to-8-hour span and fasting the rest of the day (for many, this works out to skipping breakfast and dessert), it is possible to influence insulin values and sensitivity within the body, as well as help deplete glucose and glycogen, meaning body fat stores are targeted for energy.

However, research suggests that even muscle-builders stand to benefit from intermittent fasting, and it’s all because fasted states tend to produce more growth hormone — and the studies have shown this for quite a long time.

A Washington University study done in the 1960s asserts what we still know today as a gospel truth: You secrete more growth hormone (GH) while you sleep. Further, the study shows that going to bed in a fasted state — your body really favors burning fat here, especially when there is a shortage of blood sugar or glycogen stored in the muscles — further primes the metabolism for anabolic activity (again, all going back to the pancreas and insulin).

Now, add in resistance training to this mix, and you’re creating a perfect storm of sorts: The fasted state you stay in until right after your training session increases the production of GH. The fasted sleep you got the night before this has done it even more. And the protein-and-carb-heavy meal you consume immediately after training pretty much throws the whole muscle-building, fat-burning process into motion by signaling to the pancreas to release anabolic insulin, which carries glycogen to your muscles for immediate recovery — and, because of your previously fasted state, there isn’t left-over blood sugar waiting to be used or burned, so your body doesn’t need to store it as fat.

A 2003 Sports Medicine study explains the benefits of exercise on growth hormone production:

Resistance training results in a significant EIGR (Exercise-Induced GRowth hormone). Evidence suggests that load and frequency are determining factors in the regulation of hGH (human growth hormone) secretion. Despite the significant EIGR induced by resistance training, much of the stimulus for protein synthesis has been attributed to insulin-like growth factor-1 with modest contributions from the hGH-GH receptor interaction on the cell membrane. (Source)

In short, you’re bolstering your GH production four ways: Sleep, fasting, exercise and timed eating. And the hunger that you might first experience when adopting intermittent fasting subsides, fast — remember, we’re a species that spent centuries not knowing from where or when our next meal was coming from. We were hungry a lot. Our bodies produce a substance called Ghrelin that basically decides when we feel hungry, for how long, and what to do with metabolic energy. And, as you might’ve guessed from our theme here, it plays a role in signaling the release of growth hormone when we do eat. Its name is cutely derived: (Growth Hormone Release-Inducing = Ghrelin)

Once your body knows (yes, your body learns, and very quickly) that you’re not going to be eating every three hours, and that a fasting period is coming, hunger side effects like crankiness and morning irritability from skipping breakfast will fade. Ghrelin will make sure of that.

The bottom line on intermittent fasting, as far as hormones go, is that research strongly indicates it can provide a significantly anabolic, fat-burning environment based on the body’s hormonal responses to the changes it would go through. And who doesn’t want that?

Intermittent Fasting: Is It For You?

Most of what we know to be good dietary practice revolves around a few tenets that we’ve hammered home: Eat six small meals a day; eat protein with every meal; do not let yourself go into “starvation mode,” etc. One dietary trend that is gaining traction, however, throws all of these to the wind — and people are getting results with it.

It’s intermittent fasting, the most popular form of which is a “feast and fast” mode that gives you a specific time period in which you can eat, followed by another in which you don’t. There are three major components to intermittent fasting that, when we consider their role in fitness and dietary nutrition, become very interesting: insulin sensitivity, hormone production and energy storage. This article is meant to focus on the role of insulin sensitivity and the possible benefits of intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting: It's good enough for Wolverine. Is it good enough for you?

Intermittent fasting: It’s good enough for Wolverine. Is it good enough for you?

Anyone with a famous body do it? Yep.

What we know about how the pancreas reacts in different stages can clue us in to why intermittent fasting very well could be a viable dietary strategy. Everything we’ve come to know about the role of insulin, not only in fat loss but in muscle gain and even in diabetes, suggests that we probably don’t need to be providing blood sugar to our bodies every three hours; true enough, most people following a nutritious diet tend to stay away from the frequent carbohydrates that are eventually turned into glucose anyway. But, large calorie spikes, carb or not, can indeed cause jolts of insulin to help move and transport all those nutrients — the question is, how do we 1) take advantage of insulin, which is a natural anabolic hormone, and 2), keep our bodies sensitive to it so that we get those advantages more frequently?

Intermittent fasting — in our context, eating only in a four-to-eight-hour window immediately following exercise and eating no other calories outside of it — helps promote insulin sensitivity. When your organs and tissues are already saturated with stored glucose, ready to be used as energy at a moment’s notice, and you eat a meal, the pancreas still secretes insulin. When insulin saturates the body, though, it remains in the bloodstream, and your body becomes more and more resistant to its effects — continuing down this road of constant insulin presence in the blood leads to diabetes. Those who exercise frequently use this stored glucose as fuel, which means that when they eat, the insulin has a place to go, a role to play, instead of settling in the bloodstream. That concept is one of the main ones behind intermittent fasting: by diminishing the frequent supply of glucose in the body, you can encourage your body to instead turn to stored body fat for energy and at the same time keep it sensitive to insulin.

The Journal of Applied Physiology took a good look at this very topic, and the basic premise of its findings: the body responds to insulin the most after a period of fasting. Your blood sugar levels deplete as you sleep, and do so even more as you fast (and, as we’ll explain later this week, do so even more as you train). This can set you up for massive anabolic boosts if you choose healthy foods and time your feast periods properly (i.e., right after your workouts), and also add another major benefit: body fat loss.

Stop Starving Yourself

Eat.

It seems so easy to just say it, doesn’t it? We do it for our health, for social reasons and because it satisfies us. And yet, those of us who want life both ways — to enjoy the pleasures of eating while still maintaining a healthy body — have undoubtedly come across the urge to simply resist eating in an effort to limit the number of calories we eat.

Years and years of gradual degradation of the overall diet in the Western world has made Americans fatter than anyone, but food isn’t the enemy. Like any other big businesses, the food industry is still a “buyer beware” scenario — the responsibility falls on the consumer (in this case, literally) to know what is going in his or her body. Unfortunately, most do not, and the result of ignorance or laziness is often grouping “FOOD” as one huge category, to be avoided whenever possible if weight is to be lost.

Why is this wrong? In a word: Evolution.

Our bodies were created and have adapted to be extremely efficient at preserving energy. The most obvious example of this is in our metabolisms — simply put, we are fat because we consume more than we expend. Don’t blame calories, don’t blame carbohydrates, don’t blame food. It is the overindulgence itself that is the problem!

The body wants more than anything to make sure that it never runs out of energy, and its preferred source is glycogen (blood sugar). Easily used, glycogen is what almost all the carbohydrates you eat are converted to for use — bread, crackers, sugar, oatmeal, starches, etc., etc. Different foods have different periods of time they take to be broken down, but rest assured, if it goes in your pie hole, it’s going to be converted to usable sugar at some point.

And here is where we start to tip the scales: Not all that sugar necessarily gets used. It’s true the body burns calories in the form of glycogen, but no more than it absolutely needs to. That means if you are not performing activities that require energy expenditure — if your lifestyle is sedentary — then you simply will not burn those calories. So, eat less of them, right? The short answer is “yes.” Where most people slip up is by taking this to an extreme, and the best example of this is that, somehow, along the way, this culture decided that three big, specifically timed meals were the answer.

Remember how we said the body was efficient? And how it will always make sure it has enough energy? That is doubly true if it thinks it is starving, and when you go hours on end without food, that is exactly the message the brain is getting. It doesn’t understand that you’re trying to lose a pants size; it understands that you are not eating, and when you do, it’s huge amounts of high-calorie food. It smacks of desperation, so your brain responds accordingly, sending the message to the body to store every calorie it can, just in case. Your body means well. But its preferred method of storing calories is as body fat, which later will be converted back to blood sugar — but that’s only if there’s ever a prolonged calorie shortage.

For all these reasons, we recommend eating every three hours, and making sure protein is part of that meal. You don’t need a full-course setup; three complete meals (a lean protein, some healthy fats, a slow-burning carbohydrate and a fruit or veggie) and three small snacks throughout the day will suffice. The idea isn’t to eat MORE FOOD; the idea is to eat about the same amount over more time, in smaller portions, frequently. Every three hours is just about ideal — you won’t be famished when it’s time to eat, so you won’t overdo it, you’ll provide a steady stream of nutrition throughout the day and, perhaps most importantly, you’ll convince your brain that no, you’re not starving, so there’s no need to keep hanging on to all those calories as body fat, that yes, it’s OK to actually start using some of that old, saved-up fat storage for energy instead (just imagine how much more clearly your brain will get the message once you incorporate exercise, too).

Fat loss has quite a few steps to it, but don’t get the most important one confused:

Eat.

What’s in a Gram?

Our theme this week: Not all calories are created equal. To show exactly what that means, consider this breakdown on what a gram of each macronutrient brings to the table, calorie-wise.

Protein = 4 calories

Carbohydrate = 4 calories

Alcohol = 7 calories

Fat = 9 calories

When talking calories, it’s important to always remember what exactly it is – it’s a unit of energy. Consuming calories is consuming energy, meant to be used, and if it’s not used, it’s stored. So, with that in mind, how can you use that information to affect your everyday eating habits? First off, let’s start with protein — it is by far the efficient macronutrient here, because of what it provides at such a low caloric cost. If you’re eating to gain muscle, you should be around 1 gram per pound of your own body weight.  So if you’re a 180-pound man, that’s about 180 grams of protein a day. That is 720 calories, just in protein — obviously, then, that standard 2,0o0-calorie diet isn’t for muscle-builders.

This should signify how important it is to keep alcohol consumption within reason. Your body will use carbs and fats, as long as you aren’t overindulging on them — carbs are fast, quickly used energy and fats help keep you feeling full (though, at 9 calories per gram, you can see that this is a lot of excess energy to be consuming). Alcohol, on the other hand, is ahefty  price (7 calories per gram) to pay for something that actually inhibits your metabolism’s ability to process calories in the first place. Alcohol weight is MUCH different from the weight you’ll gain by adding healthy fats and proteins to your diet!