The 4 Pillars of Health
How many meals per day is ideal?
If you are eating nutrient dense real foods such as meat and seafood, you won’t need to eat more than 3 meals a day. But if you are eating nutrient deficient foods like refined carbs and sugary food, you will feel hungry within 3 hours and you will need to eat more often.
It also depends on your muscle mass, how active you are during the day, how much energy you expand and so on. When you eat nutrient dense foods, you will feel satiated easily and won’t eat much more than you would. It is certainly easier to eat something sweet as dessert after your meal than to eat another steak or baked potato.
It is better to eat more at each meal than to eat more frequently. The idea is to reduce your insulin spikes to only 3 or less times each day than to have 5 or more smaller spikes.
During the early days of human existence, availability of food depends on successful hunting, unlike current times when food is easily available. We have organs (our liver) to convert and store energy for use during times of non-feeding. As such, our body is able to withstand prolong periods of fasting. There is no need for us to eat whenever we feel like it or when we are hungry. As I mentioned at the beginning, if we eat nutrient dense foods, we will not feel hungry easily. Ever since I am on a low-carb nutrient dense diet, I rarely feel hungry. Many others who are on LCHF diet usually only eat once a day (OMAD) or at most twice.
Research studies showed that mice live longer when they are put on time restricted feeding or calorie restricted feeding. However, further studies are needed to know the impact on longevity and aging in humans.
Can I snack whenever I like?
Try to limit your snack to only once per day if you really must have something to munch. Snack on things like fruits, nuts, dark chocolate, eggs instead of processed foods like chips, ice cream, cakes or biscuits. Anything that is sweet will raise your insulin.
The easiest way to stop snacking is not to buy snacks. When you feel like snacking but you can’t find any snacks, you have to find something else to do. Over time your habit of snacking will be gone. Snacking is more a habit than a necessity.
Why shouldn’t I eat 3 hours before bedtime?
Eating less than 3 hours before bedtime increases your risk of developing GERD, or Acid Reflux. This includes snacking while watching TV before bed. Some people have difficulty falling asleep when they eat late because the body is busy digesting the last meal. Some may experience indigestion or feel bloated.
If your last meal was 4 hours ago and you feel hungry, drink some water to tide you through instead of having a light snack. The best way to prevent hunger is to become fat adapted. And the best way to become fat adapted is to either eat a low carb diet or do intermittent fasting. This will train your body to burn fats instead of glucose for energy. The amount of fats in your body can last you at least 24 hours without food easily. I rarely feel hungry ever since I become fat adapted.
Being fat-adapted allows your body to be metabolically flexible. When you consume more carbohydrates, your body will switch easily to metabolise sugar first. But the converse is not true. If you have been carbs centric, even when your fats intake increase, your body will still burn sugar first. It takes at least 2 weeks to become fat-adapted in general. If you can remove all carbs and do fasting at the same time, your transition to being fat-adapted will be shorter. This is the stable state that we are trying to achieve, that is, the body is burning fats for energy with the metabolic flexibility of burning glucose when fats are not available.
What are the benefits of fasting?
There are many benefits of fasting. Some of which are
- Improves blood glucose levels by reducing insulin resistance
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels
- Provides alternative fuel source by switching to fat metabolism
- Helps in weight loss
- Provides therapeutic effects for metabolic illnesses
Fasting exists in many religions and has been practised for ages. It is generally safe to fast for up to 72 hours. If you are going to fast longer than that, do consult a physician before doing it. I have yet to find a good reason to fast more than 24 hours because I am already enjoying optimal health.
What are some harmful habits?
The main ones are smoking and drinking. I don’t think I need to elaborate on smoking here.
As for drinking, I am not a drinker so I don’t really research much into drinking. I only know that if you cannot stop yourself from drinking, you are addicted.
It seems like there could be benefits in drinking beer up to 2 cans per day for men and 1 can per day for women. But if you drink more than that on a regular basis, your liver will be damaged and you may end up with fatty liver disease.
One study found that drinking alcohol during meals (<=4 drinks per week) is inversely associated with metabolic syndrome. However, drinking outside of meals in larger quantity is associated with a greater prevalence of metabolic syndrome. (Ref A)
Ref A – Vieira, B. A., Luft, V. C., Schmidt, M. I., Chambless, L. E., Chor, D., Barreto, S. M., & Duncan, B. B. (2016). Timing and type of alcohol consumption and the metabolic syndrome-ELSA-Brasil. PLoS One, 11(9), e0163044.
What supplements should I take?
Before you start taking any supplements, you might want to check with your doctor to see what kind you should take and the safe dosage to consume.
Fish oil (omega-3) is good to balance out the high omega-6 vegetable oils that we consume when we eat non-home cooked food. It is also anti-inflammatory and has many other benefits.
Vitamin D is necessary nowadays as people spend more time indoors. Once you determine your existing levels, you will know how much to supplement if your D levels are low. Generally 2000iu/day is a safe dose.
We used to get Magnesium from vegetables which are grown on nutrient rich soil. However, with the depletion of nutrients from soil, many people are deficient in Magnesium nowadays. The recommended dosage is 400mg per day.
I am only familiar with these as I am currently taking them. Supplements are a good way to balance the deficiencies in our diet, especially if you are on a vegan diet.