Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet, The Anti-Estrogenic Diet, Maximum Muscle Minimum Fat, and the upcoming book Unlocking the Muscle Gene, is an expert on how to build muscle and improve your health with foods.
In this interview, Ori shares his insights about the timing of your meals to optimize your health.
You probably realize the importance of your food choices, but does it matter when you eat? Yes, it does. To shed some light on this issue, I asked fitness expert Ori Hofmekler to share his insights.
What to Eat for Breakfast
You need to be very particular with your meal size and food choices. Contrary to popular opinion, the morning is not the ideal time to eat large meals because during this time your body is in elimination (detox) mode.
When your metabolic system is operating well, you’ll find that you have to go to the bathroom each morning, like clockwork. This is important in order to effectively eliminate toxins and prevent disease. Unfortunately, constipation is an extremely common problem, and part of the reason for this is that your body is not “set” to eliminate properly due to poor diet and improper meal timing.
So, if you’re constipated, or do not automatically eliminate every morning, it’s a giant clue you need to re-examine what and when you eat.
Ori recommends eating only detoxifying foods until noontime, such as:
- Low glycemic fruits such as berries, papayas or green apples
- Light protein, such as whey protein
Whey Protein—The Ideal Morning Fuel
Not only will whey protein satiate your hunger until lunch rolls around, it can also help you reap greater benefits if you exercise in the morning.
A recent study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, demonstrated that consuming whey protein (20g protein / serving) 30 minutes before resistance training boosts your body's metabolism for as much as 24 hours after your workout!
It appears as though the amino acids found in high quality whey protein activate certain cellular mechanisms (including mTORC-1), which in turn promote muscle protein synthesis, boost thyroid, and also protect against declining testosterone levels after exercise.
This is in stark contrast to athletes who load up on carbs to fuel their workouts. Although popular with many, “carb loading” is a mistake, particuarly for people engaged in intense strength training, as you will burn carb fuel very quickly and then “hit the wall.” The same goes for most people who start their day with muffins, bagels, or pancakes for example. This type of breakfast typically ignites a vicious cycle of hunger and snacking on even more carbs. And the more you continue eating these carb snacks, the more insulin resistant you become.
The Proper Time to Eat—Before and After Your Morning Workout
In practical terms, consuming 20-30 grams of whey protein with no sugar added 30 minutes before exercise, and another serving 30-60 minutes afterward can help increase both fat burning and muscle building. If you are only going to do one whey meal, then the one after your workout is really crucial. That’s if you are seeking to increase muscle growth with strength training.
“During exercise, especially resistance, or strength training, you cause muscle microtrauma. Usually it’s a good thing because this microtrauma actually stimulates muscle development, but this muscle microtrauma impairs glucose utilization in your muscle for about 30 minutes up to an hour, and sometimes more.
This is the wrong time to put carb fuel into the muscle.
But since we are not putting carbohydrates in the meal it’s fine to have your recovery meal about 30 minutes after exercise.
If you exercised properly, you’re not really hungry in the first 30 minutes anyway. And if you feel very hungry, you didn’t exercise well. When hunger peaks up—you typically sense it 30 minutes or an hour later—that’s the right time to eat. So listen to your body.”
Another reason why eating directly after exercise is discouraged has to do with the fact that your body shuts down digestion during intense exercise, and it takes a little while before your body is ready to start digesting food.
Stressed? Watch Your Portion Sizes
Stress shuts down digestion. This is also why Ori recommends eating smaller meals during the working (stressful) hours of the day. In short, your body cannot adequately process a large meal if you’re constantly on the run—physically or mentally.
Whey protein seems to provide great nourishment under those circumstances. That’s if it’s high quality. Whey protein yields the fastest nutrient delivery. It will only remain in your system for 15 to 30 minutes, so it’s very easily digestible and assimilated—providing you with the highest amino acid score than all protein foods. And incredibly, it also gives you a great energy boost without overspiking your insulin.
Yet another benefit of whey is that it promotes production of satiety peptides which help maintain your testosterone and thyroid hormones at healthy levels.
The Ideal Breakfast Combination
As I’ve shared before, whey protein is the staple of my morning meal. I consume one serving prior to exercise, and one after, as described above. The other components I add to my shake are:
- Raw eggs
- Raw organic coconut oil (about one teaspoon)
- De-fatted chia seed fiber and protein powder
- Two Complete Probiotics
- One vitamin K2
The remainder, however, forms an ideal meal for that first part of your day.
“Dairy and eggs compliment each other,” Ori explains. “Basically, they enhance each others amino acid score… they belong to a similar family that has similar components… Both are naturally designed to support development and growth.
Coconut… does add good fuel. It’s the best fat fuel during the active hours of the day… with antibacterial properties… It’s also stable. It doesn’t get rancid, so it’s a very good choice.”
I used to use coconut milk but have switched to Fresh Shores Extra Virgin coconut oil due to concerns about BPA and phthalates in the lining of the cans. As long as you are using a hand mixer it will mix very nicely and you will not notice any solid chunks. The blender also works very nicely for mixing the eggs very well so there isn’t any texture issue to be concerned with.
As for the choice of milk, both raw milk from sheep and goat are rich and alpha lactalalbumin, and the raw milk creates a wonderful synergy with the whey. Whey is, of course, a part of milk to begin with, but when you add raw milk to it, you actually get something similar to human breast milk, according to Ori.
One caveat with using raw milk is that it slows the absorption of the whey, so while it’s great in the morning to give you stamina, you’ll want to avoid using it before your workout if you exercise in the afternoon, because at that time your body has entered the burning phase.
“[I]n the afternoon, just take 20-30 grams of whey before exercising,” Ori recommends.
Just be sure that if you decide to mix anything else into it, make sure it’s low-glycemic.
How to Select a High Quality Whey Protein
Since whey protein is a by-product of dairy, it’s important to make sure it’s derived from grass-fed, non-hormonally treated cows. It should also be minimally processed in order to preserve beneficial immuno components such as immunoglobins, bovine serum albomin, lactoferins, and other key amino acids and nutrients.
Most commercial whey products are derived from pasteurized dairy and processed with heat and acid, which destroys the whey's fragile Immuno components and damages important amino acids. Many of them also contain chemical additives, detergents and artificial sweeteners, which are known for their health shattering effects. And contrary to popular belief, artificial sweeteners actually sabotage your weight loss efforts by impairing your ability to regulate your appetite naturally.
In addition, you'll want to look for medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), not long chain fatty acids. MCTs are easily digestible, and they spare branch chain amino acids and leucine from degradation to energy. Hence, they increase the utilization efficiency and anabolic properties of the whey. For more in-depth information about whey protein and its many health benefits, please see my previous interview with Ori on this topic.
A Novel Way to Add Probiotics
Probiotics can also be added to your shake. In fact, probiotics increase the bioavailability of your protein and they play a critical role in protecting your body from waste toxins, pathogenic bacteria, and yeast infections.
One way of doing it is to place it directly into the whey powder. Another option is to open the capsule and pour the probiotics into your raw milk. Then place it in the fridge and let it ferment overnight, or for a few days.
What you end up with is a sour milk that is highly beneficial not just for your digestive system, but also for your cardiovascular system. It will also act as a cofactor for muscle building as they help your body utilize and produce amino acids.