Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is Snacking Healthy For You?

I am often asked this question by people trying to lose weight - "Is Snacking healthy for you?" Well my answer is always, "it depends what you are snacking on." Many so called weight loss experts always preach that in order to lose weight, you should avoid snacking. Well this is kinda true if you look at snacking from the traditional aspect - which is chips, goreng pisang and other tasty yet unhealthy choice of foods. But what if you were snacking on healthier stuff? Would that be OK?
Lets look at some basic principles of weight loss. When it comes to weight loss, a huge part of it is calories in vs calories out. As long as your total calories in is less than your total calories out, then you will lose weight. Its just simple science and mathematics. On top of that we also know that starvation diets don't work. In other words, depriving your body of nutrition for long periods of time is counter productive. Why? Because when you starve yourself, your body kicks in into survival mode. In this mode, your body decides to build up its reserve, should there suddenly be a situation when there is no food coming in. This way your body can survive as long as possible. How does your body build up its reserves? By storing whatever you eat as fat. So in order to avoid this situation, you need to eat regularly. With that being said, it does not mean you have a free hand to eat continuously. Remember what i said earlier... it all comes down to calories in vs calories out. So you still have a limit / quota of how much you can eat and still see weight loss. Your job is to spread it out smartly so your body does not go into survival mode.

One of the best techniques to reduce fat storage in your body is to eat every 3 hours that you are awake. This way, your body knows that there is a continuous stream of nutrition coming in, so it does not have to kick in its survival mode sub-routine. So if you traditionally eat 3 meals a day and you are awake for about 18 hours a day, you know for a fact that your body is going through long stretches without food, which is not good for your waist line. So in between those meals, it best to snack in between so there is food going in every 3 hours.

The big question is, what can you eat in between those normal meals of yours. You could eat your chips and goreng pisang, if you were a construction worker using about 4000 calories a day. Sure thing. For the amount of physical labour you are doing, you will need all those extra calories. But for most of us reading this, the most activity we get is when we work out or for some who don't work out, then your total activity for the day is very little. This also means that the total calories your body needs is very little too. So this means you will have to be careful with what you choose to eat so you don't burst your budget.

Ideally you should snack on low calories foods like fresh fruits (also a great way to get in heaps of micro nutrients like vitamins and minerals), muesli or maybe even a protein shake if you are taking one. This way you get to ensure you don't totally bust your daily calorie intake because you are eating every 3 hours.I know its difficult for those in the working world to try and abide by this rule diligently. With meetings and rushing off reports, sometimes even having a regular lunch hour seems impossible. But with a bit of planning, you should be able to do just fine. The idea here, is for you to go to work prepared. The problem why most people can't seem to do it, is because they go to work without being prepared for this.

I personally like recommending simple fruits like apples, bananas, grapes etc, because they are easy to eat on the go and you can store them just about anywhere. You don't need to prepare them before eating, so this removes a lot of the fuss. Buying loose muesli to munch on is great too, but i personally find it a little more cumbersome. Protein shakes are awesome because you can even bring it with you for a meeting. Just put it into a thermos and everyone will think you are sipping down a cup of coffee and won't even know you are drinking a protein shake. Got a long meeting? No problem... if you have your protein shake handy, you won't have to worry about it.

So the big question now is, what are you snacking on? Just because a colleague buys some curry puffs at 4 pm, doesn't mean you have to gulp those down. The problem arises when we don't plan and don't have any other healthy foods to consume. But if you came prepared, then you don't have to snack on that curry puff. Of course its ok for you to chow down that curry puff every once in awhile ( i love curry puffs), but if you are serious about your weight loss, then you know what you need to do to burn off those additional calories because of the curry puff. You will need to work it off somewhere. So do the math and decide which is more important to you - temptation of the curry puff or your figure.

Being prepared is the best way to avoid eating unnecessary unhealthy foods. Carrying some fruits with you takes no time at all to prepare, so there is no excuse as to why you can't do it. Same goes with protein shakes. Its easy, convenient and takes no time at all to prepare. So plan your snacking properly and watch the fat melt off. Its that simple. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


Demsi Jake said...

Nice article and it's something I have been trying to explain to MANY people about it.

With a little determination and planning you can actually plan your snack time especially to those who work in the office. There are plenty of recipe that you can prepare before hand, pack in in a glad wrap and bring it to the office.

Rajan said...

Demsi: Yup. I am trying to get people to plan meals too. This small planning will go a long way towards your weight loss goals.