SELF HELP RESOURCE - Wellness / Lifestyle

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Is skipping meals really that big a deal? Breakfast gets overlooked as most people are pressed for time and rushing off to work. In the busyness of the days routine, lunch is missed and sometimes dinner gets skipped due to tiredness and lethargy.

This may be a regular feature in many office goers these days. But what are the consequences? The human body always attempts to achieve a state of homeostasis; the result of regular meal skipping depends on age, health and current diet. This can lead to a chain of physiological reactions.

The Quick Fix

In an attempt to lose weight quickly (we all love quick, short cut methods to success) sometimes meals are skipped on purpose. The interesting fact is you will lose weight, but looking closer there is a catch. Starvation dieting or low carb diets burn muscle for energy instead of carbohydrates (which are the primary source of energy). The body retains fat and your metabolism slows down. These diets are not sustainable and definitely not easy to follow. Eventually dangerous belly fat gets accumulated, in addition to this, slow metabolism sets the stage for an even higher weight gain once the diet is discontinued.

Intermittent Fasting

Skipping a meal occasionally (intermittent fasting) for religious or detox purposes once in a while is considered safe. If you want to detox, consult a Nutritionist who can give you a balanced diet plan that will not compromise on essential nutrients. This kind of fasting can help lower inflammation and helps activate cells that help repair damaged tissues in the body. However, continuous fasting runs the risk of nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, irritability and ill health.

Saving Calories?

A study from the Ohio State University concludes that you should not skip meals to save calories because it sets your body up for larger fluctuations in insulin and glucose and could be setting you up for more fat gain instead of fat loss. An excess of unhealthy fat is associated with insulin resistance and risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Surely we do not expect such drastic effects when we skip meals. But it is a hard, undeniable truth. Another study by Leah Cahill (PhD) of the Harvard School of Public Health supports this fact. The study found that - Women who skipped breakfast regularly had a 20% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Another of her studies-this one in men-linked going without a morning meal to heart disease. "Our bodies need to be fed food regularly in order to maintain healthy levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol, hormones such as insulin, and normal blood pressure," Cahill says. "As we sleep all night we are fasting, and so if we regularly do not 'break fast' in the morning, it puts a strain on our bodies that over time can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and blood pressure problems." (Prospective Study of Breakfast Eating and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in a Cohort of Male US Health Professionals)

Junk Foods

Another drawback of skipping meals is overeating or eating junk foods to make up for the calories missed. When blood sugars dip the brain automatically craves sugary, salty and sweet foods because sugars and refined carbohydrates provide a quick sugar fix. Being refine, these are quickly absorbed and the body experiences a pleasant sense of gratification or a mild drowsiness. At rest, the brain consumes one-third of the body's total glucose requirement. When starved of energy this creates problems with concentration, memory and mood. Low blood sugar triggers catecholamines from the adrenals. These hormones oppose the action of insulin and spike sugar levels. This produces a fight-or-flight reaction, the symptoms being palpitations, sweaty palms, nervousness, tremor and sometimes even severe panic attacks. To regulate this sugar rush, insulin, generated by the pancreas, lowers the blood sugar. This causes a sudden crash leading to intense fatigue.

Fuel Up!

Exercising on a severely calorie restricted meal pattern could have you feeling drained and fatigued. Even when you are trying to lose weight there is a caloric balance that has to be maintained to support your daily activity levels and exercise needs. Low blood sugar weakens your muscles and the mind is unable to focus and think clearly. After long and intense exercise there is an increase in cortisol which temporarily suppresses the immune system. It is advisable never to skip meals and to have some source of carbohydrates during and right after exercise. This helps close the window of immunosuppression. Depriving yourself of carbs increases the risk of headaches, fatigue, extreme hunger and infection. A meal or snack with protein and carbs within 2 hours of exercise replenishes energy stores and provides the necessary amino acids to build new muscle.

 

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