I’m not a fan of overeating. In fact, I think constant overeating is one of the most unhealthy things a person can do because it puts you in a constant state of energy overload. An overdose means you can’t process the food you’re taking in. It means your cells are filled up, your organs are overloaded, and hormones aren’t working the way they should. Overeating actually causes inflammation, so if you overeat every day, you’re going to develop chronic inflammation. And that’s not even mentioning its effect on obesity.
But we’re human – we’re going to overeat. Whether it’s a holiday like Thanksgiving or a birthday celebration or just because we feel like it, sometimes we like to eat a big meal. Sometimes we like to overeat.
How do we make it safer? How do we mitigate the negative effects of overeating and maybe even turn it into a positive engagement?
Let’s find out.
A grueling workout
Strenuous exercise before a big meal can improve nutrient distribution through several mechanisms. First, by removing glycogen from your muscle cells, you increase insulin sensitivity, opening up safe storage space for all the carbs you’re about to eat. Vigorous exercise before eating increases insulin-independent glucose uptake, which means you don’t even need to increase insulin levels to store glucose as glycogen. You can store glucose while keeping fat from breaking down, or releasing body fat to burn.
Vigorous exercise also increases muscle protein synthesis, so that any protein you eat is prioritized for muscle hypertrophy and recovery. In short, a great workout before you eat allows you to consume more food without causing the same metabolic consequences.
For these purposes, the most effective workout will be a full-body workout that includes strength training and cardio or metabolic conditioning. Think integrated fitness workouts, a combination of sprinting and weight lifting, or circuit training.
Try taking berberine 30 minutes before a meal. Berberine is a powerful anti-hyperglycemic supplement that improves lipid counts, metabolic function, and, when taken on an empty stomach before meals, improves postprandial blood sugar. Taking berberine before meals can improve blood sugar levels. Another beneficial effect of berberine is mitochondrial uncoupling, which means that it increases energy expenditure and “makes room” for all the energy consumed during a large meal by increasing the metabolic rate.
Vinegar to eat
Eating vinegar 20 to 30 minutes before a large carbohydrate-laden meal can improve glucose tolerance and reduce the usual glucose response This is actually part of the reason vinegar salads are traditionally eaten before meals. It’s not just because they taste good – although that’s part of the reason – but also because it allows your body to utilize glucose better.
Eat little or nothing before your big meal – the best meal I’ve ever had was at the end of a fast. It doesn’t have to be an all-day fast. It could just mean skipping breakfast and eating a smaller lunch. I don’t recommend eating just one meal a day because I think it can have a long-term negative impact on energy levels and metabolic flexibility. However, if you’re going to have a big meal and it’s a one-off, then not eating for a few hours before you do will help mitigate most of the negative effects of over-consumption while maximizing your enjoyment.
If you know you’re going to overeat, make sure you consume protein. It’s Thanksgiving? Eat more turkey. Christmas dinner? Fill up on lamb shanks. Eat the protein first, let the fat follow, then the carbs. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so starting with it means you’re less likely to overdose on protein in other foods. Feasting is wonderful, but no one likes the feeling of overindulgence.
One study even found that overfeeding with a low protein intake increased fat mass but not lean muscle mass, while overfeeding with a high protein intake increased fat mass by the same amount but added additional lean muscle mass No one wants to gain fat, but I think it’s better to gain muscle along with fat than just body fat.
Eat some gelatinous foods or collagen with your meals
Collagen and gelatin are both rich in glycine, which is an amino acid that has been shown to lower blood glucose levels If you’re going to eat a lot of carbohydrates, far more than your usual intake, including some gelatinous foods like gravy, bone broths, skin and connective tissues, or even just a few scoops of collagen will improve your glucose response to the meal. It will also counteract the methionine load you get from your muscles.
Drink red wine with your meal
Drinking red wine with a large meal has a number of health benefits in addition to tasting good and improving the subjective enjoyment of your food.
- It reduces your lipid oxidation and the expression of inflammatory genes, which usually happens after a big meal of junk food.
- It reduces the elevated blood pressure often caused by overeating
- It reduces markers of oxidative stress after meals.
If you’re going to eat a large amount of food, then start eating earlier than usual. Don’t eat a huge dinner at 10pm and then expect to go right to sleep and enjoy a good 8 hours. You need at least 3-4 hours after your meal to walk, digest your food, and get everything out of the way before you go to bed. Everything digests better when you give yourself a couple hours.
Drinking coffee after a meal
A cup of coffee or espresso after a meal is a traditional way to boost digestion and calm the gut. Regarding coffee as an after-meal digestive – no, I wouldn’t tell someone sensitive to caffeine to drink espresso after a meal, especially at night. If you know that coffee will keep you awake, then don’t drink it, or drink decaf (which has about the same effect). But if you can enjoy a little coffee without interfering with your sleep, then drinking coffee after a big meal is the perfect time. The bitter flavor helps digest the food you just ate.
Go for a walk afterward.
Take a 20 to 30 minute walk after a meal, or a 10 minute walk if you have the time, this helps with digestion and reduces the spike in blood sugar and blood fatty acids that usually occurs after eating a big meal Personally, if I eat a big meal and sit down, I don’t feel great. If I go for a walk afterward, I feel better. That’s part of the attraction of a walkable place like Miami. When Kelly and I go out to dinner, we walk home, and walking home after dinner happens to have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels, free fatty acids, and digestion.
Now you know: Ten things you can do before, during and after a big meal to minimize the negative effects of overeating. Don’t let big meals become a habit, but if you’re eating a big meal for a special occasion, this is how to make it work for you instead of against you.