I love food. Period. When it comes to eating I get just about as excited as Britney Spears at the front of the line at Starbucks. I am either constantly eating food, or thinking of where I am going to get it. If i don’t eat every few hours, i get grumpy as well as irritable and consequently not very pleasant to be around. I go from Britney at Starbucks to Britney at a gas station with an umbrella and shaved head within minutes. So imagine my surprise when on embarking on my new healthy living journey I found that eating every few hours is not only good for you, but it is recommended and your body actually needs it.
There’s a catch though. It has to be healthy nutritious food. What? You didn’t think you could actually eat a donut every few hours and it be good for you did you? Well whether your goal is shed a few pounds, or put on a bit of muscle and see more results at the gym, supplying your body with a steady flow of nutrients every 2 – 3 hours is in your best interest.
Why is it important?
Eating small meals every 2 – 3 hours (or around 6 meals a day) instead of the traditional 3 large meals speeds up your metabolism. Fast metabolism = you fitting into those skinny jeans. It tells your body that food is in abundance and that there is no need to store fat. When you don’t eat for longer than 3 hours, your body isn’t sure when it’s going to get it next meal, so it tells itself to stop burning energy and start storing fat – a very helpful trait for our ancestors but not so relevant in today’s world.
2. Stabilizes blood sugar
You know what happens when you have low blood sugar? You develop cravings for sweet or fatty foods and next thing you know you are chowing down like Kirsty Alley at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Eating whole foods every 2 – 3 hours mitigates this by providing your body with a steady supply of energy, therefore avoiding those nasty high insulin peaks. What does that mean to you exactly? Well lets just say it stops you pressing your face up against that vending machine at 3pm in the afternoon, and you will be more inclined to reach for something nutritious rather than that chocolate candy bar or bag of salty pretzels.
3. Nutrients for Muscle Growth
Did you know that protein can’t be stored in the body? Unlike Carbohydrates which can be stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue or converted into fat, Protein when consumed is broken down into amino acids and is used to repair muscle and tissue in the body. Around the 3-hour mark all the protein you have consumed from the previous meal has been used to repair your tissues, or expelled, and therefore your body will begin to require more. What happens if you don’t give it more? Well your body will start sucking protein out of your muscles to provide to other vital organs, and for any of you who spend hours lifting weights at the gym in hope of buffing up a bit, this sucks about as much as Lindsay Lohan’s attempted music career. So eating protein throughout the day every few hours will ensure that your body maintains an anabolic (muscle growth) state.
Now, as I mentioned above, I love to eat, and to eat often, so eating every 3 hours isn’t very difficult for me. But I know it is for a lot of people. People have busy lives, don’t have time to prepare meals or sit down to eat them 6 times a day, or simply don’t have the appetite and can’t stomach the idea of eating so often. So I have provided a few little tips on how you can try to adopt this new lifestyle;
- Prepare your meals in advance: Cook chicken or other protein in bulk and refrigerate for the week to divide amongst meals. Same with vegetables. Use Tupperware to divide your meals and have them ready to go.
- Have snacks ready: Have a stash of almonds or walnuts in your draw for a quick snack of healthy fats and protein.
- Buy pre-packed salad mixes: It’s easy to buy salad mixes in the produce isles of supermarkets these days. Open them up, add your chicken and veggies, some balsamic vinegar and you’ve got yourself a quick healthy meal in under 5 minutes.
- Have a protein shake: I prefer whole natural protein sources like chicken or fish to processed protein shakes, but the fact is they are quick and easy to make, and can supply your body with what it needs. Just read the label to ensure you are getting a nutritious one. Oh, and don’t eat protein bars – the benefit of the protein is outweighed by the sugars, artificial sweeteners and fat they use to stick the bar together.
- Eat Breakfast: Its the most important meal of the day, gets your metabolism and digestive system moving, and eating it every day gets your first meal done and out of the way.
- Ensure they are small meals: Now I’m not telling you to whip up and eat a Peppercorn-crusted filet mignon with a merlot-shallot sauce and a side of meringue streusel-topped sweet potatoes at every meal (although that sounds amazing right). Just ensure you eat a little protein like chicken, and some carbohydrates in the form of whole grains or vegetables. Keep the meals small and simple.
- Avoid starchy carbohydrates in your last meal or two: Your body doesn’t require a lot of energy at night, so that big bowl of pasta you are about to eat probably isn’t going to play nicely or become BFFs with your hips. Aim for lean proteins with vegetables in the evening. Unless of course you have just worked out, which is when a small amount of carbs will come in handy to replenish muscle glycogen.
So whether you are in that gym with hopes of building those guns and revealing those 6 pack abs, or whether you are just wanting to reduce that muffin top so that green peace doesnt try to push you back in the water as you lay on the beach, eating every few hours is a habit you need to adopt…whether you are busy and have a lot on your plate or not.