Carbohydrate Timing For Weight-Loss
Background: The master health regulator in the brain, the hypothalamus, controls appetite, fat burning, body weight, metabolic health and many other health parameters.
As I described in ‘The New Science of Low Carb’; when we lose weight, we experience a drop in leptin levels, which means the hypothalamus loses a very important boosting signal.
As a result of weight loss and consequent lower leptin levels, the hypothalamus operates on a low energy setting and we start to experience increased appetite and food cravings.
This may be familiar to low carb dieters; it starts out great and the weight is coming off great, but then we hit a stall and the weight stops coming off, it may in fact start to come back ON!
We start to experience the dreaded yo-yo effect and regain.
Is there anything we can do to prevent this soul-destroying state of affairs?
There IS something we can do to get post-weight-loss low leptin levels raised back up and get the appetite circuit of the brain working optimally again.
The answer is INSULIN!
Insulin increases leptin levels.
What we need is, one highly insulin-increasing/leptin-boosting meal a day to get leptin levels back up and get the appetite circuit boosted up to work optimally again.
Insulin is not BAD as many popular diet books would have us believe.
Insulin hyper-secretion is a SYMPTOM of a poorly functioning hypothalamus, but a healthy insulin release is very good for metabolism and appetite.
The best time of day to eat a highly insulinogenic/leptin boosting meal is in the morning.
This is because the morning is when the hypothalamus is working at its best and insulin sensitivity is at its highest.
Insulin sensitivity (a marker of hypothalamic function) is ‘more than 50 percent higher than at midnight’ 1.]
If we eat carbohydrates at this time of the day, the hypothalamus will be working better, which will make the innate immune system work better to control bacteria which feeds on the carbohydrates.
This will minimise any negative carbohydrate effects. (read more on this in this post)
Also, the insulin will be able to do its job better to power up the hypothalamus because insulin sensitivity in the brain is higher.
A study carried out by researchers at Tel Aviv University found that obese dieters who had a big breakfast, lost more weight and suffered less from food cravings than those dieters who had a smaller low carb breakfast.
One group ate a 600-calorie high-carb breakfast .
The other group ate a 300-calorie low-carb breakfast. Both breakfasts were rich in proteins, as they included tuna, egg whites, cheese and low-fat milk.
Both groups stuck to a low-carb diet for the rest of the day.
After 16 weeks on the diets, both groups had lost weight — about 33 lb. on average — suggesting that both diets worked about the same.
But in the final 16 weeks of the study, the follow-up period, those in the low-carb group had regained an average of 22 lb, while;
those indulging in carbs in the morning went on to lose another 15 lb. on average, for an overall average loss of 40 pounds!
The big high carb breakfast group reported feeling less hunger and fewer cravings than the other participants.
Their food diaries showed they were also better at sticking to their calorie limits.
The big breakfast group also showed greater drops of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin after breakfast — 45%, vs. a 30% drop for the low-carb dieters.
Seventy six percent of the pure low-carb dieters abandoned the plan because they could not resist their carb cravings.
Among big breakfast dieters, only 8% abandoned the plan, so clearly it was a far easier plan to stick to.
This is crucial. If a diet results in food cravings, it will be impossible to stick to and the reality is that the food cravings will get the better of you and you will end up regaining the weight you lost.
Insulin sensitivity (a marker of hypothalamic function) is highest at noon, so a lower fat, high protein, high carb meal may be even better at lunch time.
Because the function of the hypothalamus (and the immune system which it controls) declines throughout the rest of the day, carbohydrates should be kept low for the rest of the day, to prevent uncontrolled overgrowths of bacteria in the intestine by feeding on dietary carbohydrates (which leads to metabolic and appetite dysregulation).
So, the evening meal should be a type of protein and salad.
You will notice a large reduction in the desire to snack in the afternoon and evening.
This is good because eating carbohydrates and high-fat food later in the day is far more detrimental to the hypothalamus than in the morning.
This is because the hypothalamus functions on a low energy setting in the afternoon/evening and is less able to ‘tolerate’ carbohydrates or fatty foods.
In the afternoon/evening, these foods have less satiating power in the brain, which means that we are more likely to over-consume these foods when we eat them later in the day.
A study was carried out in Australia which ranked foods according to how satiating they are.
A more satiating food is one which makes us feel satisfied and less pre-occupied with food (i.e. suffering fewer cravings).
If we are to minimise food cravings as much as possible, we clearly want to choose those foods which are the most satiating.
The most satiating carbohydrates were; potatoes and porridge.
Potatoes were off the chart in terms of their power to satiate.
Oranges and apples were the most satiating fruits.
So, if you chose to have your carb meal as the breakfast meal, a good choice might be porridge made with soya milk, sweetened with Truvia, with chopped walnuts, chia seeds, cocoa powder and cinnamon and apple pieces, followed by a large orange.
If you chose to have your carb meal as the lunch time meal; a good choice might be jacket potato and beans.
As we have less tolerance for carbohydrates in the evening, we should choose a protein-based evening meal.
The most satiating types of protein were found to be; fish and beef.
A great evening meal would therefore be steak or fish and salad, with a glass of low-sugar wine.