Are you wondering if you should be eating 5 – 6 small meals during the day or 2 – 3 larger meals? Which is better for your health? Let’s find out!
For years, we’ve been told to eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than a few larger meals. Heck, I’ve even probably told you this! I followed this advice for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned the real truth about eating frequency and how it affects our health.
I’m sure if you’ve been on an exercise and diet regime, you’ve been told to eat 5 – 6 small meals throughout your day. You may even have been told that this helps keeps blood sugar in balance, boosts metabolism, and helps you stay full and not get hungry.
I’m here to tell you that we’ve been lied to and that eating more frequently is actually BAD for our health.
Why is frequent eating bad advice?
We Are Not Burning Stored Fat:
When we are eating every 2 – 3 hours, our body is only burning that food for fuel. The body never has a chance to dip into it’s fat reserves and burn fat for fuel! When the body is being fed so often, it doesn’t have a reason to burn fat as fuel.
Let’s say you have a healthy snack, like carrots, in between lunch and dinner. Your body will only burn the energy from the carrots, you will not burn any stored fat.
By eating frquently, you’re consistently releasing insulin (the fat storage hormone.) The insulin in your body is storing sugar and not letting other enzymes in your body release sugar to break down fat.
We can use both fat and carbohydrates (sugar) as fuel. But when our body has BOTH fuel sources available, it will always burn the sugars first (because they burn fast) and the fat last (because they burn slower.)
We Are Not Increasing Our Metabolism:
One of the main reasons we’ve been told to eat more frequently is that it boosts our metabolism, thus increasing fat burning and stimulating weight loss. It is true that our body expends a certain amount of energy by digesting food. This is called the thermic effect of food. On average, the thermic effect of food is around 10% of our total calorie intake.
But the truth is, it’s not about how often you eat, it’s about what and how much you are putting into your body. Eating more frequently throughout the day doesn’t boost metabolism any more than eating 3 larger meals a day.
We End Up Eating More:
Eating more frequently can also cause us to lose track of the calories we’ve consumed. When you have six small meals it becomes harder to remember how many calories you’ve eaten in a particular day. It also becomes more difficult to ensure that each time you’re eating, you’re consuming the appropriate combination of macronutrients like healthy proteins, fats, and carbs.
You’re left feeling unsatisfied. Studies have shown that many people don’t feel satiated following a small meal, which can then cause them to overeat later, to make up for it. Psychologically, grazing can leave you wanting more because you never sit down to have a full meal.
This was very true for me. When I was eating 6 small meals a day, I was ALWAYS hungry!! That’s because I was never eating enough at one meal, and my body was telling me to EAT MORE!
Why is infrequent eating and larger meals better advice?
Fat burning is impossible when insulin levels are elevated. It takes about 3 hours after a meal for insulin levels to return to baseline, even if you just eat a small snack. Until insulin levels return to baseline, burning fat is impossible.
When you eat 3 meals a day and have ample time between meals, the body is forced to burn that stored fat. Once the fat is restored as an active fuel supply, you will see better energy, more stable moods, greater mental clarity, better sleep, less cravings and natural and permanent weight management.
Fat Burning Benefits:
As it turns out, burning fat has a multitude of benefits beyond weight management. Fat is the most precious source of fuel for the body. It burns slowly and steadily, providing energy for many hours straight. By contrast, sugar burns quickly. Sugar and carbohydrate fuels provide quick bursts of energy that often end up in a crash.
Burning fat detoxifies us and neutralizes excess acids that build up from stress. The problem is that many of us have lost the ability to burn fat effectively and are chronically storing fat and gaining weight.
Burning Fat All Day Long:
Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with no snacks in between will provide a natural fast in between meals that will encourage fat metabolism.
Do you remember when you were little and you woke up to eat breakfast, then had lunch at school, and then had dinner around 5:30 or 6:00 pm and went to bed around 8:00 pm? We slept through the night (fasting) and broke the fast with “breakfast.”
Eating this way allows us to maintain normal blood sugar, stable moods, and overall greater health.
How To Make The Transition To Eating Less Frequently
For most of us who have become accustomed to snacking, switching to eating 3 larger meals will be an adjustment. Much of our diet is made up of carbs, sugars, and fast-burning processed foods.
Here are some tips to make the transition a little easier:
- Drink lots of water (I actually add lemon and salt to my daily water for a boost of electrolytes.) You can also have tea and coffee. I actually like to have my fat burning latte!
- Start with 4 meals a day and work yourself down to 3 meals.
- Make your meals larger and try to make lunch your biggest meal.
- Eat whole foods and avoid processed foods. I’ve found that switching to a high fat, low carb way of eating has helped me stay satiated MUCH better!
And just remember, eating this way is making you into a great fat burner!! This will help balance your blood sugar and stave off a host of degenerative and inflammatory issues.