When you look at your meals of the day, they do take place at different times so a reasonable argument can be made that the content of them should be tailored accordingly from an optimal nutrition standpoint. Do you think that the nutritional implications of your meal timing were taken into account when our past generations set about creating traditions? We’ll answer that for you – they didn’t.
Let’s start with breakfast because it’s easily the most ridiculous example. The fact that we eat it first thing in the morning is a bit odd. As part of the process of waking up, our body releases cortisol and growth hormones that are part of mobilising energy stores to bring glucose into the bloodstream and provide us with the energy to get started in our day.
As we’ve discussed, this is part of the logic behind why Intermittent Fasting is quite natural for us, but regardless of when you eat breakfast, it’s the first meal of the day. Bear in mind that your body hasn’t had food for anywhere from 6-18 hours. For most, this is the longest period they go without eating, and thus their body is most sensitive to what they eat.
These facts aside, there’s no difference between breakfast and other meals of the day, yet, for some reason, we seem to think it’s absurd to eat vegetables in the morning. The only green we deem acceptable is avocado, and even then that’s only something hipsters have brought to the fore recently.
Tradition has everything as beige as possible. America made cereal the go-to meal. Canadians dribble syrup over pancakes. Europe popularised bread & pastries… Sugar, sugar, sugar, with barely any nutrient value and mostly pre-processed so that they are short on fibre and quickly digested by our starving stomachs. Even unprocessed oats get topped with bananas and sweetened with honey or sugar.
In Meet Insulin we discussed insulin sensitivity and why is important for your health. The key is to consume sugars when your blood sugar levels are low and your body needs it. This isn’t the morning unless you’ve woken up and smashed a workout that has depleted your glycogen stores.
There was a glimmer of hope several years ago when green smoothies came into fashion as a breakfast item; packed with colourful veg and full of nutrients. Have you ever tried putting broccoli, kale, cucumber and an apple in a blender though? Full of stringy bits and tastes like you’re licking your fingers after doing some gardening, people started juicing their ingredients instead. This removes all of the fibre that slows down the digestion of fruit and vegetable carbohydrates. As if that wasn’t enough, they then add fibre-free, sucrose-loaded pineapple juice, coconut water & 6 tablespoons of honey.
So that backfired too, especially because these people were then hungry again an hour later and snacking on office crackers because their 200 calorie breakfast had made them feel bloated but not actually given them any satiety.
When you try to tell people that they should be eating fats and vegetables for breakfast they say “ew! For breakfast!? That’s not what you eat for breakfast”. For some reason, tradition justifies eating breakfast food that one would never consider a meal at any other time of day (apart from maybe a midnight snack).
It’s understandable. In the rush to get to school or work we look for something quick and easy. The issue is that eating is not meant to be a rushed process, regardless of the circumstances. If you need more time in the morning then turn off Netflix before watching “one last episode” the night before or leave the bar 15 minutes earlier and go to bed earlier. Get up and make a proper, simple breakfast and take your time eating it.
If you want to make it productive then use this time to write your day’s to-do list. If your morning consists of attempting to get wild children ready for school then skip breakfast for now and eat it later when you have some time to yourself.
Food was never meant to be “fast”… Everything about that culture is wrong.
The list of comparable situations is endless. Take what you would buy if you were about to embark on a road trip. “Car Snacks” consist of various sweets, chocolates and crisps. Compare that to what you’d snack on during a hike when you’re in the mindset of consuming healthy food in nature.
What says that slow-digesting, nutritious trail mixes are perfect for hiking but sugary sweet should be eaten whilst driving? If anything logic has the digestibility and energy density of those snacks the other way round, yet traditions say otherwise.
If you’re a sucker for the almost compulsory tradition of eating popcorn at the cinema, ask yourself is “if I loved it that much, wouldn’t I eat it on other occasions as well?”. Hide some low calorie salted seaweed or rice cakes and a bottle of water under your hoodie in your backpack and you’ve suddenly dramatically dropped your sugar and calorie intake whilst still crunching away to your favourite rom-com. Not to mention you’ve probably saved a couple of ringgit.
A good personal trainer should spend the first week you work with them observing the situations in which you find yourself consuming foods with low nutritional content and high amounts of calories that contribute to your body composition. They then go through the above process of seeing if they can replace those food sources with preferable ones that mean you’re still able to snack and enjoy occasions such as the cinema or a road trip, without detracting from your goals.
Personal training in Kuala Lumpur is difficult when controlling diet because so many of the options in front of the public are irresistibly delicious and very calorie-dense. Eating is also a massive part of the Malaysian culture and a sensitive thing to address.
Culture, religion, family or just habits may have conditioned you in many other ways. We aren’t saying that you should never have another once-a-year moon cake festival treat or Hari Raya dodol, but maybe allow this cynical view to craft your portioning and apply it to more of your day-to-day traditions.
Head over to the next article to see us cover Embrace the Sun