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The Body Means Business: How Eating Strategically Can Give You More Energy

By Amy Grazen | May 12, 2015 | Careers & Culture, Life at Blue Cross NC

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Have you ever considered that even though you may work in an office all day, you might be an athlete – a corporate athlete?

Consider the old business adage of supply and demand – if you have supply but there is no demand, you probably won’t be successful. The same holds true if there is demand and no supply, right? Neither scenario is going to create a thriving business.

These same principles hold true for your body, too.

Your body demands physical energy all day, but are you supplying it with the right fuel to make you successful? Are you eating strategically? Sure, we all need a supply of energy, which comes in the form of glucose (we should get this from our diets). But for many of us, the demands for our time, attention and energy start first thing in the morning and don’t stop until your head hits the pillow at night. And thinking about what we eat and how we use our energy isn’t exactly top-of-mind.

Does this look familiar? Wake up, sprint to the shower, skip breakfast, rush or work through lunch (or maybe you skip lunch altogether), then come home only to raid the pantry, wolf down a dinner, and then have a sweet treat before bed.

This spells bad news for our bodies. Remember, our bodies don’t create energy – they either consume it or store it. Every 3 to 4 hours, our body needs fuel to give our bodies the energy they need. If we don’t, our body has to get it elsewhere. If we consistently go long periods of time (four or more hours) without fuel (not simply empty calories, but nutritional foods), our body will default to survival mode, which is far from ideal.

What Happens in Survival Mode?

  1. Metabolic rate (the energy engine) slows down
  2. The body resorts to breaking down muscle for fuel
  3. The body then wants to store the precious energy we call FAT – and the body will conserve and expand it!

You read that right – not eating – or not eating the right things – is one of the worst things you can do for your health. That’s because your body will begin to store fat when you’re in survival mode. Your body doesn’t know when it’s going to get its next round of supplies, so it hoards what it has so you have the energy you need to go about your day.

Skipping meals is particularly common in the first part of the day, and then when you come home, you’re HANGRY (angry because you’re hungry) because it’s been too long since you’ve re-fueled. However, if you then try to make up for the meals you missed during the day by eating too much dinner, your body will have an excess of glucose and won’t know how to manage it.

Fat, Glucose & Insulin

When you eat in excess, the remaining glucose requires the pancreas to produce insulin, the mail delivery system for glucose. The pancreas deposits the extra glucose in – you guessed it – fat cells. We have an unlimited capacity to store glucose as fat. If we continually burden the pancreas by overeating, it will start to get tired. Eventually we may even become glucose resistant which could lead to Type II diabetes and other metabolic disorders. This cycle is something that’s easy to break simply by spacing out our meals and snacks to energize our bodies throughout the day.

Just like a thirsty athlete gulping down water during a timeout, : we need to supply our bodies right when demand is high, and refrain from over-supplying when demand tapers off. Think of the chaos we create when we don’t supply enough of the right energy – the body works overtime to pull glucose from muscle; and when we oversupply – the body pulls double duty and has to store all the excess glucose. Both cases will drain our physical energy. The best thing you can do is eat light and often to create a consistent energy supply and avoid overeating at any one meal. This will give you the energy you need to enjoy your day and achieve a personal best in whatever you choose to do with your energy.