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The metabolism exists in one of two states: Absorptive or post-absorptive.
The absorptive state is a fed state, when there’s food in your stomach and small intestine. During the fed state, the body draws fuel from mostly ingested calories. Excess is stored as glycogen, glucose, and fat.
The post-absorptive state is a fasted state, when there’s no food in your stomach and small intestine. During the fasted state, the body catalyzes and mobilizes stored glucose and fat for fuel.
Time Spent in Each State
The fed state lasts for about 4 hours after feeding. So if we eat, say, 3 meals spread through the day, then our body spends 12 hours in the absorptive state — or half the time in a 24-hour period we are in the fed state.
But the typical person spends much more time in the fed state. If this person eats by the typical North American meal pattern, then he begins eating breakfast about 7 am. Then a morning snack comes around 10:30 am. Then lunch around 12:30 or 1 pm. Then an afternoon snack comes around 3 pm. Then dinner around 7 pm. Maybe a late snack at 9:30 pm.
This means the absorptive state is continuous and extends to 18 hours. The post-absorptive state — when the stomach is empty — exists for only 6 hours.
A Messed-up Ratio
You can see what’s wrong with this picture: The stomach and small intestine contain food content for 18 hours, but are empty for only 6. This ratio offers the body very little opportunity to draw its fuel from stored calories. The result is a metabolism that favors calorie storage and encourage an imbalanced energy metabolism.
Balance the Ratio in Favor of Fat Loss
The repair is simple: change the ratio of the fed state and fasted state. Eat less by eating less frequently.
The way I do this successfully (and without any apparent negative effect or eating obsession) is to begin eating my first meal around 4 or 5 pm. I usually stop by 11 pm. This means, in a 24-hour period, my stomach and small intestine are empty more than half of the time, during which time my body catalyzes stored fat for usable energy.