Strategies for Sustaining Energy Balance

Q&A for Session #7
Sports Nutrition Symposium 4.0
Thursday January 20th, 2022 @ 12 pm CST

Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, LD, FACSM

Planned Consumption of Specific Foods and Food Components
Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, LD, FACSM
Sustaining energy balance is critically important for avoiding the potential negative impact of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). Consumption of specific foods and food components at planned times can help.

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  • According to the FASEB journal: Timed high fat diet resets circadian metabolism and prevents obesity. Did it account for types of fats? Saturated vs unsaturated fat?
    • It was a typical diet of mixed fats in the study. Consider that fat break down is time mediated because the enzyme that breaks down fat from chylomicrons to low density lipoproteins (lipoprotein lipase). There is only so much that a body can produce at one time. So if you have a lot of fat all at once, the amount of lipoprotein lipase that the body can produce to break it down is limited so it stays in the blood longer and increases the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. However if you have it in small doses, you can make enough lipoprotein lipase to bring a little bit into cells so those cells can metabolize it and so good things happen. A lot of it has to due with the fact that lipoprotein lipase production is limited by time. So that is why a small timed intake is better than having too much at once.

  • Please elaborate on the statement: "Eating small amounts of fat throughout the day is better than eating the same amount in one meal." What is the physiology behind this?
    • Because we can't break down a large amount all at once, it stays in the blood and it has a atherogenic potential and that is a problem. Large amounts require a protein carrier. It is a high priority to get a protein carrier for fat so it does not congregate all in the same place in the bloodstream. So the body releases tryptophan, which is normally released when you go to bed at night and is why you feel sleepy. So when tryptophan is released early so that the fat can attach itself to albumin there is free tryptophan that can cross the blood brain barrier and you make serotonin and you feel tired. So, small amounts are no problem, big amounts = big problem.

  • When I see some Dietitians who specialize in weight loss, they tend to focus on weekly averages more than daily avg., do you find this to be helpful for weight loss? Also, is it true that we should be focusing on fat/protein for our first meal for weight loss, or since we are more insulin sensitive in the mornings it would make more sense to focus on a carb-rich meal at breakfast?
    • I think it is really important to look at trends overtime. Daily is misleading because there will always be daily fluctuations. Things vary from day to day, long term trends are ideal. Daily trends may lead to wrong information being delivered. I also like graphing it out. It is important what you say. If you say to someone "look your body fat level is high" - most people will tune you out and do what they want (put themselves on a diet) but what if you said "your lean mass % is low, I want to help you increase your muscle mass" - you have opened up the discussion. How we express ourselves can make an enormous difference in how the conversation goes.

  • Feeling confused. I thought eating more frequently meant more frequent release of insulin meaning it's a negative. Thinking here about non-athlete weight loss client.
    • Just the opposite. Blood sugar reaches its peak one hour after you eat. About two hours after that it returns to pre-meal levels. Normal blood sugar range is 80-120 mg/dL. If it gets down to 70 mg/dL and you wait longer than three hours to eat, you are going to be hyperinsulinemic. We used to have morning and afternoon tea which was done away with due to the industrial revolution. But it was a very smart thing to do from a physiological standpoint. Eating frequently lowers the insulin response. It controls ghrelin and leptin exactly the way you want it to be controlled.

  • From a practical perspective, what advice would you give to an athlete with a small appetite?
    • Appetite is a scary thing to deal with because it is unpredictable and not a good indicator of what is happening hormonally. It can be affected visually and also by the endocrine system. Like getting hungry after seeing a food that is visually enticing, you may desire to eat that food even though you just ate a meal. You need to visually show them what happens if they don't eat, and that they should not rely on appetite. Have them rely on what we know is true for a normal endocrine response to eating or not eating. Appetite is not the end all and is very often the result of habit. If the habit is bad, it will stay bad because it is their habit. Give them the facts of why it would be good to eat without relying so much on appetite.

  • If someone who is trying to lose weight is already in a state of adaptive thermogenesis what should they do to return to normal metabolism? Is there a difference in the answer for non-athletes?
    • Yes, because if energy metabolism is lower you have to be very cautious not putting the person on a normal diet. It has to be a very suttle, slow, timely increase to get them back up to a normal energy balance. Get back to an energy balance SLOWLY so that they can get to that balance all day long. If you do it suddenly, they will gain too much fat due to their energy metabolism being lower. We are looking at four to eight weeks of doing the right stuff physically and eating normally so that we can get there energy metabolism up to where it needs to be.

  • If you have an athlete who does want to reduce their body fat %, assuming they are keeping their energy balance relatively consistent over the course of the day, what is a recommended reduction in energy intake to elicit fat loss, minimise loss of lean tissue, and limit adaptive thermogenesis?
    • If you want to increase muscle, you want to stay + or - 400 calories all the time. You need to have one or two more hours in anabolic state above zero than below zero on the new model for energy balance chart. If you want to decrease fat and keep your muscle, you only spend one or two more hours below zero than above zero. You have to be in a catabolic state but you don't want to be in such a catabolic state where you induce an altercation in the normal hormonal response. You don't want to slow down energy metabolism.

  • In an individual athlete or non athlete, we know in order to build lean mass you have to have a strength training program, you can't just eat protein and lean mass increases, correct?
    • You are exactly right. But it is not just having a strength training program, it's making sure that you have a little bit of extra energy to support the increase, not a lot. Muscle doesn't increase very quickly. So you only need enough extra energy to support the microscopic change in musculature day after day after doing this physical activity. One of the big mistakes that people make is that they take in more than they need from big protein and energy supplements to satisfy the end result rather than the current change in musculature. I think we have to be careful with that.