Many of our meals today are eaten on the run as we try to multi-task in the belief that we are getting more out of our day. Many benefits of the nutritious meals that we eat on the go are wasted because of one fact that busy people tend to ignore…
We are not what we eat. We are what we absorb from what we eat.
Before you start to slam-dunk a tuna and salad sandwich down your throat while running around like a chicken with its head cut off, please consider this:
The biggest thing that interferes with your nutrient absorption is eating while you are stressed.
When you are stressed, your body goes into what is known as a “fight or flight response”. This means that your body is thinking that you are in physical danger, so your body prepares you to fight as hard as you can or run away from the danger as hard as you can. In these circumstances, your muscles need as much blood as possible, so blood is diverted from your digestive organs to your muscles. This stress response may help you perform great feats of strength and speed but it is terrible for trying to digest a meal.
Studies at the University of California (1) also show that persistently high levels of stress hormones result in more fat storage (particularly around the abdomen) and inhibit storage of glycogen in our muscles that you need for readily available energy.
Now this doesn’t mean that you have to go and sit cross-legged and chant “Ommm” every time you want eat. My recommendation is simply this: take each time that you eat as an opportunity for you to relax and change your mental state. So, before you eat, give yourself a one-minute relaxation entrée by sitting quietly and focus only on your breathing.
As you change your emotional state more blood begins to be diverted back to your internal digestive organs. This allows your body to more efficiently and more effectively digest and absorb all the nutrients from your healthy sandwich to create even more energy for the rest of your day.
1) Dallman, M., Akana, S., Strack, A., Hanson, E., and Sebastian, R. “The neural network that regulates energy balance is responsive to glucocorticoids and insulin and also regulates HPA axis responsivity at a site proximal to CRF neurons” Ann N Y Acad Sci 771 (1995);730-42