Everywhere you look these days, diet advice abounds. Eat this, don’t eat that, drink this magical tea, pair these things, never pair those things, and so on. Sometimes these tips have some merit, but often they are simply based on wishful thinking.
We always say that a healthy, balanced diet and the right amount of calories is the true key to weight loss and maintenance. That’s because we’ve examined the timeline of digestion along with the body’s true caloric needs, and our ideas are based on real facts about metabolism and fat storage.
So, just what happens when you eat? More to the point, what happens when you eat too much?
In the beginning… Your body produces hormones that signal hunger to your brain. You respond by grabbing some food.
Ten to fifteen minutes… As you chew, chemicals in your saliva begin to break down carbohydrates in your food.
Twenty minutes… The foods you’ve chosen to eat will mix with stomach acid. Your stomach expands and you begin to feel “full”. If you’ve eaten too much, the first sign might be heartburn, caused by excess stomach acid moving up your esophagus.
Twenty-five minutes… The food you’ve eaten, mixed with stomach acid, begins to trickle into your small intestine. That organ releases chemicals to signal fullness to your brain.
(As you can see, fullness is first signaled by the stomach, and then by the small intestine, and you won’t receive those signals for about 25 minutes after you begin eating)
Thirty minutes and onward… Your pancreas begins releases digestive juices to help your small intestine do its work. This process can take several hours, depending upon the type of food you’ve eaten. Simple carbs like starches and sugars take less time, while proteins and fats will be digested for hours.
One to two hours… Food is broken down into glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids. These nutrients are distributed via your bloodstream to the cells of your body.
Two hours and onward… At this point, if you haven’t used the energy from your food, your body begins to store it as fat. Note that this two-hour point is not an exact limit, and depends upon what types of food you’ve chosen to eat. Proteins and fats take longer to break down, and therefore won’t be stored in fat cells as quickly.
Hopefully this timeline has illuminated two important facts for you. First, since it can take up to half an hour to “feel full”, you should eat your meals slowly. Allow your brain time to catch up with your stomach, so that you don’t accidentally consume too many calories.
Second, if you consume more calories than you will use in the next few hours, the excess will be stored as fat. And since the type of nutrients you consume will determine the length of digestion time, it is important to include proteins and healthy fats in each meal.
Now, you just need to put together a healthy, balanced diet that will help you achieve your weight loss goals. Give us a call and we can help you determine your caloric and nutritional needs.