Where do people learn what is healthy and what isn’t? With the exception of few, that make the effort to search, read and educate themselves, most people blindly trust the widely spread information in media and society. Every day, you read headlines like, “4 Rules for Weight Loss”, “10 Rules for Healthy Eating” and so forth. All these “rules” make healthy living a burden. Just like laws, limit our actions, “rules” for healthy eating and weight loss, actually limit our progress!
Probably you will ask “Why?”? Well, if all these rules, tactics and strategies, really worked, why is society getting more and more obese? If all this worked, why do people constantly wander from diet to diet, from failure to failure, while they reach a point, where they either quit striving to get healthier and fitter or decide to start educating themselves…
I constantly get messages with all kind of questions, born out of widely spread information about diets and health.There are a lot of myths that should be debunked, but today I will focus on one of the most popular. Which one is it?” Eat frequent meals, 6 times a day, in small quantities. “
Before keep on going, I have to make the confession, that for a short time, I used to follow that “rule”. When I used to rely on the “trustworthy” information coming from media, I thought that this was the solution to healthier lifestyle and lower obesity. Alas, this way of eating, just contributed to my disordered eating habits, and didn’t help a lot!
Why? Keep on reading!
Myth 1. Eating frequently in small quantities will make your metabolism faster
Why do most people claim this? Because they are not good at math! 😉 It is well known that there is the so called thermic effect of food(TEF). In reality this refers to the fact that when you digest food, your body has to burn some calories in order to do that. On average the TEF is 10%. If you just got confused, I will explain further.
If your lunch is 300 calories, that would mean that 30 calories( 10% of 300) will be required for the digestion of the food you ate. Thus, a lot of fitness “experts” think, that if you eat more often, you will be constantly burning calories… too good to be true!
How does it matter if you eat 5 times of 300 calories, which means 5×30=150 calories, required for the digestion of food, or if you eat 3 times of 500 calories, which means 3×50(10% of 500)=150 calories required for digestion of food?
At the end of the day your calculations will be equal! The TEF of each separate meal is not the one that matters. What matters is the TEF of the total quantity of food you ate for that particular day!
Well, then, where does that myth come from?
From the correlation between infrequent eating patterns and overweight people. BUT correlation, does not mean causation, i.e. just because most people that are overweight, don’t eat frequently, doesn’t mean that infrequent eating, leads to weight gain!
More often than not the correlation comes from the fact that people who don’t eat often, usually have unhealthy eating habits, they eat a lot of junk and processed foods, they eat more than they need, they don’t eat to satisfy hunger, but to satisfy emotions! I bet that if you eat just twice a day, but real, nutritious food, in adequate quantities, you won’t have problems with your weight!
Does that mean that I encourage you to eat just twice a day? It is not necessary! Everything between 2-4 meals, when you eat clean, will help you achieve your body composition goals!
Myth 2. Eat often in smaller quantities, in order to keep your blood sugar levels stable all day long.
A lot of “experts” claim that if you eat often, you will keep your blood sugar stable all day long and thus, you will avoid peaks and drops, that will make you hungry. It sounds interesting, but in reality it is far from the truth! The only truth comes from the fact that you will keep your blood sugar level the same all day long… and it will be high!
After each meal, your blood sugar will rise and your body has to produce insulin, in order to take that sugar out of the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone, that is required in order for your body to function properly but just in some quantities.
When your insulin is constantly elevated, that will interfere with the fat burning process!
Besides that your blood sugar, could be stable without you eating six times a day. The way our body functions is a result of our evolution. During that evolution, we were exposed to prolonged times of fasting and our bodies adapted to survive under similar conditions.
So even if you do not eat every two hours, you won’t go in starvation mode. If you’d like, you could read here , about a research, where people didn’t eat anything for 48 hours and during that time their blood sugar levels were normal. It didn’t get too low, and it didn’t lead to slower metabolism or brain fog. 48 hours! And you are worried that you can’t go more than 2 hours without food? It doesn’t seem reasonable!
Myth 3. Eat more often to control hunger
At first this one looked logical. If I ate more often, I would be constantly giving my body some fuel and I won’t be hungry. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out like that. My life looked more like the life of the girl from the picture.
I couldn’t wait for my next meal, because I never got to feel truly satisfied from my meals. I was nervously waiting for my next meal, constantly staring at the clock, waiting… Even though there are people who feel good, eating like that, this is not true for athletes and people with active lifestyle.
My experience and my observations show me that it is much better to eat 3-4 times in bigger quantities, so you could feel satisfied, and not be nervously waiting for your next meal. Personally,this way of eating had positive effects on my mind, because I got rid of the constant thoughts about food, carrying tuppaware and obsessing with my diet.
Even if it looks minor, this is actually really important, because it lets you focus on other things and use food just for fuel. It lets you shift your focus from your diet, to more important stuff!
In case you don’t believe me, read this , that shows how 3 meals, could be more satisfying than 6!
Stay tune for the next part of the article. Meanwhile if you don’t believe me, try it yourself. Start eating 3-4 times a day, a little larger portions. Keep the food clean, eat in enough wuantities to support your goals and I promise that you will feel great and your body will look better!
How many times a day do you eat? How do you feel and what is your oppinion?
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I eat 4 times a day. I have breakfast shortly after I wake up . Btw is it true that it is optimal to eat breakfast up til 1 hour 30 minutes after waking up not to slow the metabolism?
Then I have lunch around 12, snack around 16 and dinner…and seems ok
I eat just the way you do- four times a day! The first one is between 6-7, next between 11-12, around 16 and then dinner.
The breakfast question is complicated. In my oppinion it depends! If you are an intermittent faster, it wouldn’t bother you if you don’t eat immediately after you wake up. It is just part of intermittent fasting.
I’ve noticed that some people can go with eating breakfast 1-2 hours after they wake up.
Personally I feel lack of energy if I don’t have my breakfast within 30-40 minutes after I wake up!
That’s why I think it is once again personal. If you have energy and feel good, then it wouldn’t harm to eat your breakfast later on. But if you are like me, it would just make you starve more and induldge in food later on! 🙂
I eat when I am hungry regardless of time of day. I’m not someone who is hungry right as soon as I wake up , I am thirsty when I wake up. I just started eating primal two weeks ago and am in the process of getting to know my bodies signals again. If we listen our bodies should tell us when they need fuel. I sometimes only eat breakfast, sometimes I eat three times a day. It just depends on my activity level for that day.