User Manual: Your Stomach

The stomach plays an important role in the body’s digestive system; however, it is just one part of this system. By understanding how the stomach functions you may better understand why your eating habits are inhibiting your weight loss goals. After reading this, you should be able to make better decisions about the food you eat and the way that you eat which will help your body digest the food that you eat.

The stomach is an organ found inside your abdomen or belly and is made up of smooth muscle fibers. Smooth muscles are found throughout the body. These types of muscle fibers are involuntary, meaning that you cannot consciously control their actions. Instead, they are under the control of the autonomic nervous system.

The muscles you typically think about, like your biceps, quads and pecs are called skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles are responsible for movement, balance and posture. Skeletal muscles are voluntary muscles, meaning that you can control them at will.

Skeletal muscles and smooth muscles have some things in common even though they are made up of different types of fibers.

The stomach is roughly about the size of your fist and unless you have surgery to intentionally reduce it, this will never change. However, it is possible to force enough food and liquid into your stomach to cause it to temporarily expand, after which the walls of the stomach will contract, squeezing the food into the small intestines for further digestion. The stomach will then go back to its normal size. Eating a volume of food larger than the volume of your fist results in stretching the walls of the stomach and over time, the body gets used to this sensation. After time, it then becomes the normal feeling of fullness and until you fill the stomach with that volume of food/beverage you’ll still feel hungry. In order to ‘recalibrate’ the sensation of fullness, you must reduce the amount of food entering the stomach on a regular consistent basis and you’ll eventually end up feeling full with less food!

** FITNESS TIP: Reduce the size of your plate at each meal. Serving meals on smaller plates will help you reduce the amount of food you end up eating. The typical ‘salad’ plate is roughly the size of your fist and gives you a better idea of how much food you should be eating!

While digestion does begin inside the stomach, the majority of digestion takes place in the small intestine. Basically, you can think of the stomach as a holding area for food until it enters the small intestine.

** FITNESS TIP: Eat slower. By eating slower, you give the food a chance to enter the stomach and ‘fill’ it up. This will lead you to eat less food overall.

** FITNESS TIP: Drink very cold water before and during your meal. By drinking a glass of water before your meal (especially before going out to eat or to an office party), you will fill up the empty space inside your stomach. Since the body cannot digest cold water until it’s warmed up you’ll feel fuller longer!

** FITNESS TIP: Eat smaller meals more often but be consistent with the volume of your meals. Eating the same size meals throughout the day is better than having many smaller meals throughout the day and one meal consisting of a larger volume of food. That one large meal will reset the feeling of fullness and will likely cause you to continue to feel hungry after eating each of the smaller meals.

We already talked about how the stomach itself starts the process of digestion. It does this by producing acids that start to break down the food you eat. If you eat at the same time each day, your stomach will start producing this acid in preparation for the food you are about to eat. Hunger pains and grumbling noises are your stomach’s way of telling you that you are hungry and it’s ready to get to work digesting that expected food.

** FITNESS TIP: Eat every 4 hours, which should equate to about 4-6 times per day. In addition, eat at the same time each day so your body works at its peak efficiency. Do not wait until you are hungry to eat but instead, train your body to eat at the same time daily. Eat before you get hungry so that you’ll eat less! Stick to a schedule even on weekends (as best you can).

Your metabolism is based on many factors. One of those factors is your nutrition plan. Being consistent with your nutrition by maintaining a schedule will keep your metabolism burning at a higher rate. When you have no schedule, your body cannot work efficiently and this causes the metabolism to slow down. This all starts with the stomach. Knowing how to use your stomach the right way will help you with your fitness and weight loss goals.

In Review:
Reduce the size of your plate at each meal.
Eat Slower.
Drink very cold water before and during your meal.
Eat smaller meals more often.
Be consistent with the volume of your meals.
Eat every 4 hours, which should equate to about 4-6 times per day.
Eat at the same time each day so your body works at it’s peak efficiency.