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‘Take on an Empty Stomach.’ How Do You Know When Your Stomach Is Empty?

Did you ever wonder why you seem to feel hungry only a couple hours after you’ve eaten a huge bowl of pasta and a platter of breadsticks? It might be because carbohydrates — which largely make up pasta and bread — move quickly through your stomach. Fats, on the other hand, take longer to digest than either proteins or carbohydrates. And, of course, solids take longer than liquids.

If you want to know how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines an empty stomach, it’s one hour before eating and two hours after; however, don’t rely on that definition if you’re on a medication that is dependent on how empty — or full — your stomach is, The New York Times warns. In that case, you need to read the drug labels and dose instructions, as different drugs have different instructions on when you should take them, in relation to an empty or full stomach.

It’s interesting that The New York Times was diligent enough in their reporting to mention that fats stay longer in your stomach than proteins or carbohydrates, because that’s one of the reasons you don’t feel hungry when you learn to burn fat for fuel, rather than depending on carbohydrates and proteins to fill you up. Physiologically, you simply can’t fill up on carbs and sugar because your metabolism won’t allow it.

Conversely, it’s also why low-fat diets just don’t work in the long run. When you deprive your body of good quality, healthy fats, your body turns to the only fuel it has available, and generally that’s the sugars and carbs in processed foods. And, if you stay on a diet like that, eventually you’re going to end up with metabolic syndrome and probably some of those very drugs that you need to take on an empty or full stomach, depending on which one it is you’re taking.

The bottom line is low-fat, high-carb diets not only contribute to metabolic disorders, but prevent healthy mitochondrial function, thereby contributing to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. On the flip side, studies suggest that low-carb, high-fat diets — and eating less frequently — may be the real answer to the obesity epidemic.

The notion that your body needs to regularly consume glucose for energy has become a deeply ingrained myth that keeps hungry and craving more sugar and more carbs. It's important to realize that calories are not created equal, and this is why counting calories doesn't work for weight loss and health in the long run.

The metabolic effects of calories differ depending on their source — a calorie from a Twinkie is not equivalent to a calorie from an avocado or a nut. That said, excessive snacking is a significant contributing factor to obesity, so, to lose weight and keep it off, you may need to reduce your meal frequency — and consuming healthy fats instead of carbs can help you do that.

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