What to do for dinner ?
We have explored how breakfast can help keep our body’s natural hormonal rhythm fired up when we wake up. When we do eventually break our fast around lunch time, we know how to refuel our body with a dose of nutrients that can keep it efficiently burning fuel. We have done a good job of using our body’s stored fuel to perform daily activities as it has been engineered to do and now it is early evening and we are coming to the end of the day which means it’s dinner time.
Most of us look forward to dinner, and for good reason to:
Mental - dinner time signals the end of our day and time to switch off and relax.
Practical - we are done with work so we have time to share with loved ones, socialise or even just enjoy our own quiet company after a day of activity.
Physical - our body has been hard at work all day, keeping us thinking, breathing, digesting food and all the rest. It has worked even harder if we have trained and/or have had physically demanding day. Simply put, we need to put more fuel in the tank.
Hormonal - When the temperature cools and the light begins to fade our hormones begin to prime our body to rest, refuel and recover so it can do it all over again the next day.
With all these factors combined it is no surprise that dinner is the most likely of all the meals where we tend to over indulge. Throughout the day we have consumed fat and protein to keep burning fat. A balanced diet consists of protein, fat and carbohydrates. During dinner is when we need to balance our daily nutrient intake with the introduction of carbohydrates. The amount of carbohydrates we consume will vary dependant on factors like lean muscle mass, levels of activity and genetics.
There is a plethora of calculators and different diet protocols that can be used to determine the "appropriate" amount of carbohydrates to be consumed. While these can be helpful, the common sense approach works best. Think of eating carbohydrates as topping up the fuel in your body. If we have not depleted the fuel already stored in our muscle cells, we will simply be storing the excess fuel consumed in our fat cells.
Those who regularly train will most certainly need to top up their muscle glycogen stores. But let us keep in mind that even if we are not training regularly we still use stored energy to perform daily tasks like walking, breathing and even eating. We are burning through glycogen by living and we all need top up our energy stores and balance our diet with carbohydrates.
As late afternoon approaches our insulin level starts to rise naturally. It is also around this time that our body is more inclined to store glycogen in muscle tissue as opposed to fat tissue. Put our nervous system under additional stress by lifting heavy weights or performing high intensity activities like sprints and we effectively deplete our muscle glycogen stores and encourage our body to replenish these further.
Besides the absorption of depleted nutrients from our daily activities the body is also in need of repair. Growth Hormone is our body’s repair and recovery hormone and is also a potent fat burning hormone. Production of this hormone is at its most effective after 2-3 hours of sleep in the evening. However, our body will not produce Growth Hormone effectively if insulin levels are elevated.
This is one of the reasons the myth “eating carbohydrates at night will make you fat” was spawned.
By timing our dinner earlier rather than later and our insulin levels should have return to normal well in time for the scheduled production of Growth Hormone.
Science has shown that meals rich carbohydrates - are associated with feeling sleepy. We have all experienced the “Food Coma”. It is our body’s natural response to a large dose of food, in particularly carbohydrates. Our brain is literally sending the signal to throughout our body to sit down and relax so the large dose of nutrients can be processed efficiently. So we eat carbohydrates towards the end of day as they will make us sleepy, but more importantly allow the body to absorb nutrients efficiently while we are at rest.
If we’re aiming for a 10pm bed time, we should be having our last meal by 8pm at the latest. This will leave plenty of time for your Insulin levels to return to normal and get your body primed for a full serving of growth hormone.
Dinner should be a wholesome meal with protein to repair and build the body cells and some fats for their essential fatty acids. Most importantly we need a healthy portion carbohydrates in our meal to replenish our depleted muscle glycogen stores. These should be fast absorbing carbohydrates so we don't leave our insulin levels elevated for too long into the evening.
The usual and most common suspects of white rice and white potatoes are always the easiest options but don't forget about corn, sweet potatoes, peas and pumpkin which are all full of essential vitamins and nutrients.
Fibrous carbohydrates like spinach and cabbage are also important for gut health and function. These aid in the transition of food through the body with digestion and elimination. As well as being rich in vitamins and minerals, these vegetables and greens are alkalising, which creates a favourable chemical environment in our gut which promotes better nutrient absorption.
Nobody wants to have to worry about dieting when going out for dinner. Unless ordering a salad, most menu's with consist of very carbohydrate laden meals. Well not to worry, it's dinner time and carbohydrates are on the menu. Granted we are not over indulging every night and have used the common sense approach to establish if we need to refuel our depleted energy stores.
The occasional burger and chips could just be the right type of meal to have at dinner.
Having successfully navigated through our day carefully considering the types of food we eat in order to keep our body burning fat and running efficiently, our dinner is the one meal we can enjoy without too much thought.
Like our ancestors, sitting around the fire after a day or even days of hunting and foraging, it is now time to relax and feast. We should eat till satisfied and submerge ourselves to the food coma that will follow, putting us into a deep sleep to take us through to the next morning refreshed and refuelled to take on another day.
Hopefully this has been some good wholesome food for thought. Please let us know what you think and feel free to ask questions via the chat feature or the comments sections and stay up-to-date with our latest content on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter, as we do our part in making the world a healthier place.
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