Why Should You Be Concerned About Eating A Well Balanced Meal?
Ever since you were a child, you were hammered with all types of messages from the FDA about “food pyramid” this and “well-balanced meal” that. But what does it all mean?!?!
If you’ve been researching fitness for even a short while you’ve most likely heard about macronutrients or macros as some people like to call them. These are the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins found in foods.
Fats are used to regulate hormones, proteins are the building blocks for tissue/ cell regeneration, and carbohydrates are used for energy. Essentially, every carbohydrate that you eat is converted to sugar, and your body uses this sugar as energy to fuel your body.
Depending on what the carbohydrate will determine how fast your body will convert the food into sugar. Your body almost immediately absorbs refined white sugars as energy while something such as oatmeal will take a while to convert to glucose. Whereas fiber, another form of carbohydrate, is not digested by your body at all.
The faster that your body absorbs a large amount of carbohydrates will result in a spike in blood glucose as well as insulin.
Depending on the situation this spike in insulin can result in either the storage of fat or production of new muscle tissue.
That being said, there are more advantageous times to spike your insulin which I will touch upon later. However, for the majority of time, you want to make sure that you are eating a balanced meal in order to prevent unnecessary spikes in insulin.
How Does Eating A Balanced Meal Ensure Steady Blood Sugar Levels
Above you’ll see the glycemic index. The glycemic index was created in order to alert the public to the impact certain carbohydrates will have on your insulin levels.
Foods that are higher in sugar score high on the glycemic index while foods that are labeled as “complex carbohydrates” will have a lower score.
Complex carbohydrates are just a term coined for foods that are carbohydrates that are not ultra-processed and will take a while for your body to convert to sugar.
Most carbs are absorbed very quickly by the body and therefore result in higher blood glucose. On the other hand proteins and fats are absorbed much slower.
By balancing your carbs, fats, and proteins, you will essentially cause the glycemic rating of any carbohydrate that you eat to lower and therefore cause less of an impact on your insulin levels. Thus, leveling off your body’s reaction to negatively go into fat storage mode.
Where Do People Go Wrong?
People often go wrong when it comes to eating a balanced meal because they don’t realize the macronutrient content of the foods they’re eating.
You’ve seen the pictures of a balanced meal before. They include a healthy portion of meat, a side dish, and some vegetables. This is effectively what a balanced meal should look like in a perfect world.
However, more often than not, you will see people who are loading up their plate with carbs and don’t even realize it.
Take for example a simple taco. A taco includes some meat, cheese, possibly some lettuce/tomatoes, on a tortilla. There you have a balanced meal all rolled into one.
Where people go wrong and tend to unbalance their meals is when they begin to add more carbs than necessary. In the taco example, the carbohydrates of the meal come from the tortilla. However, most people will not stop there. They also need refried beans and possibly a Spanish rice side dish.
While this is a delicious meal, it is a little too heavy on the carbohydrates and therefore will most likely result in an insulin spike. This is not the end of the world. However, if you are just having a very lazy day then spiking your insulin is not the way to go.
Remember that carbs are for fuel and unless you are having a very strenuous day than all those extra carbs are just wasted energy…literally.
Are There Any Times Where Spiking Your Insulin Is Advantageous?
Spiking your insulin is advantageous after a fast or after strenuous activity such as a workout.
Almost everyone has seen the traditional picture of a “balanced breakfast”. They often times include a big glass of juice and some toast. This is because when you first wake up in the morning eating some carbs for energy is important to having a productive day.
Keep in mind that you were fasted (asleep) for 8 hours so spiking your insulin when you wake up may be advantageous to your well being.
After doing strenuous activity such as working out or running, your body will be in a state where spiking your insulin levels will be advantageous to your health. This is why many people suggest that you should eat carbs before and after your workout.
Are There Any Exceptions To This Rule?
As with most fitness tips, many people will be quick to say…that’s not necessary.
There are a few exceptions to the balanced meal rule. Such as, if the amount of food that you eat in a day is in line with your BMR or basal metabolic rate than no matter how unbalanced your meals are you will most likely see no difference in the appearance of your body.
This means that as long as you eat as much as your body burns, you will see neither weight gain nor loss.
The other exception would be for people who follow a nutrition program called If It Fits Your Macros or IIFYM for short. Essentially these people figure out their BMR based on how many carbs, fats, and proteins they can eat per day.
As long as you don’t go over your daily allotment of carbs, fats or proteins per day, it doesn’t make much of a difference if you are eating a bowl of ice cream directly before you go to sleep.
But for the average person who does not want to do excessive calculations for the amount of food that they eat, we recommend eating balanced meals throughout the day.