How often should I eat?

Written by: Lee on 21st Feb 2011

Here's a brief explanation as to why regular small meals serve the body better than fewer large meals. The best way to explain this is to imagine the body as a coal or wood burning fire (as the way it deals with energy is very similar). As with any fire, if you add wood/coal to it at regular, planned intervals, you’re able to keep a steady burn that gives off heat right through the day. This keeps you warm (energised).  If you choose to throw all of your wood/coal onto the fire at the start of the day, you get one almighty flame that looks great for a short while, but soon burns out leaving you with nothing.

The body works in the same way. Small regular meals throughout the day keep your body fed and energised with a nice consistent blood sugar level. If you pack all of your food into only one or a couple of large meals, you give your body an awful lot to deal with at one point. You may well feel very energised for a while but it will soon burn out leaving you empty and your blood sugar having jumped from high to low.

The first of the two ways the body differs to a fire is that it doesn’t burn everything you put into it. Where a fire will only leave you with ash if you put too much in, your body will store anything it can’t process as fat cells. The second way is that your body has its own ‘intelligent’ ways of dealing with energy. The longer you leave between meals, the more your body thinks it has to keep reserves and so it stores food as fat to cope with these large gaps of fasting. If you eat regular, small meals, you are telling your body that it will get the energy it needs to work and it does not need to store any extra.

I know it’s not possible for everyone to stick to 6 regular meals every day but incorporating healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts or cottage cheese and reducing portion size for main meals can go a long way towards a healthy physique.

Comments

I have found that this is one

I have found that this is one way for me to keep off the weight I have lost because you don't get super hungry and over indulge when you eat a little bit all day long.This definitely makes a huge difference in my energy level too, it's much more consistent now.

Planning is crucial. Many

Planning is crucial. Many people think that it's too hard to plan such number of meal throughout the day but in reality it's a piece of cake if you're really determined.

I have adopted such a eating

I have adopted such a eating habit although at first it was challenging to say goodbye to the usual three large meals a day. As they say, old habits are hard to break...but very possible! :)

It's strange to think that

It's strange to think that eating more frequently would be a key to losing weight and also that it's such a hard habit to get into. I try and bring a stash of healthy snacks and some protein bars that ae easy to grab on the quick while I'm at work.

Eating Smaller Meals More Often

I went to a nutritionist a month or so ago. He recommended eating smaller meals and snacking on healthy foods, like fruits, nuts and vegetables, between them. It's been hard to change my habits, but it seems like I don't have the ups and downs in energy levels when I follow his advice.

That metaphor is really

That metaphor is really helpful, I may use it with people I know. And yes, I can't emphasize that enough! Sure, you may feel energized after a large meal, but the fact is, the body will have a lot to deal with, and that energized feeling will go away soon as the body starts dealing with all those calories.

The wood burning fire-number

The wood burning fire-number of meals analogy makes it very easy to comprehend why eating regular small meals a day is a better route to health...I've been doing this for some time now, and I'm so OK with it. One of the best things that I like about it is that I'm able to get rid of the bloated feeling caused by eating large meals.

I deal with low blood sugar,

I deal with low blood sugar, which runs in my family. I really must eat several smaller meals at regular intervals to avoid low blood sugar problems. If I don't, my energy level gets goofed up and I can't work out.

Blood sugar regulation is why

Blood sugar regulation is why any and all people will benefit from a meal plan like this. The fact that it does help poeple with conditions like your own should further encourage and convince poeple of its benefits.

Or how often shouldn't I eat?

Or how often shouldn't I eat? I was taking a medication for awhile that had the effect of impairing my ability to detect when I was satiated, so I tended to overeat!

When my husband was in

When my husband was in hospital recovering from a heart attack they recommended this style of eating and we carried it on at home. It takes a little effort but it's worth it.

We have a refrigerator at

We have a refrigerator at work. Over the weekend I go shopping for the quick and easy but healthy things I can nibble on during lunch and breaks. Every Monday I walk in with my grocery bag. It is much easier to manage this way.

How do you find the time to

How do you find the time to fit in the extra meals? I can see room for one, when normally I would have a snack, but not that many.

I make the time, if something

I make the time, if something is worth doing then I'll happily spend that extra bit of time and effort making sure I do it properly. I prepare multiple meals at once if I know I have a busy day ahead and take 3 or 4 cold meals out with me, I never go into a day not knowing what I'll be eating that day, I shop accordingly so I'm not left without anything i need, protein shakes and supplements are a great, easy way of getting that quick meal in. There are many things that can be done to facilitate a regular eating plan, it just takes some thought and preperation.

Batch cooking really helps

Batch cooking really helps eat healthier. If the right food is readily available, then it's a whole lot easier to make good choices.

I wish I could stick to this

I wish I could stick to this regime as I feel marvellous when I do. My husband and I both prefer to eat many small meals but it isn't always practical.

All we can do is make the

All we can do is make the most of our individual circumstances. Only you know if you are doing this as fully as you can as often as you can.

Makes complete sense. I just

Makes complete sense. I just wish that I was able to do something like this, but between work and other commitments-I'm sure we all have things stopping us.

Its more a case of whether or

Its more a case of whether or not you let things stop you. Where we may not all be able to stick to a diet as regular as a top body builder, we are all capable of making the most of our own circumstances. A bit of thought and preperation can go a long way.

This was awesome, thanks!

This was awesome, thanks! You know I always wondered why people said it was better to eat many small meals each day. I usually stick to the 3 main meals but after reading this blog post I will try to change it up. The analogy with the coal/wood stove hit home.

I love my grub!

It's not always easy to get away from the 3 square meals a day when you live with people who have it ingrained in their mind. However, I have started to reduce the size of my portions and eat more frequently anyway, plus eating slower too seems to help with hunger pangs.

I never used to eat small

I never used to eat small meals more often, but it's a necessity when pregnant. After I have the baby I want to continue, although naturally I will reduce the calories some.

Good advice, thanks. It's

Good advice, thanks. It's said that it takes around four hours for your body to completely digest food from the time you eat it. Does it mean that the interval should be at least four hours?

I'd always recommend every 3

I'd always recommend every 3 hours where possible. This allows you to get in the necessay amount of meals during the day while still allowing a good 8 hours rest time. Some of the more strict body building diets will go as far as eating every 2 hours. Having tried this I can say it becomes very difficult to plan and even more so if you wish to do anything else during the day.

I have recently quit an

I have recently quit an office job and now I work from home. From a health perspective, one of the best parts of that is being able to take frequent breaks and nibble on a quick nutritious snack.

A little preperation.......

.......goes a long way. I neither look forward to nor have the time to cook several times a day, so I don't. I will always plan and prepare the majority of a days meals the night before, leaving myself with as little as possible to do during a busy day. It's very rare that someone genuinely can't fit in regular meals throughout a day, it's more a question of commitment and effort. If you want something, you have to make the time for it (as best you can) as no one else is going to do it for you.

Most people would be amazed at what they can achieve if they take a few minutes to sit down and plan things out.

I find that I don't even have

I find that I don't even have enough time in a day to fit in 6 meals. I eat breakfast, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and then supper. None of my meals are very large.

I've recently started

I've recently started incorporating snacks into my day and reducing meal portions, but it's been challenging. Sometimes I forget to snack and slip back into my old habit of three larger meals a day.