By Eduardo Lorenzo
Most people are familiar with the concept of eating 4-6 small meals per day, but many ask why this is necessary. There are several reasons, and this method of eating works for people trying to lose weight as well as those who are trying to put on muscle. However, I’ll focus more on weight loss, since most people are after this as a goal.
To be fit, trim, healthy, and have lots of energy, you’ve got to feed your metabolism! That means eating every two to three hours. Skipping meals or drastically cutting calories is never the answer because it tricks your body into storing fat rather than shedding it!
That is why you may see yourself lose some weight the minute you start on a certain diet program and most start doing some type of cardio. Yet after a while you hit a plateau, stop losing weight or just can’t gain muscle (whichever may be the goal you’re after). This could be discouraging; but don’t lose hope or motivation. Building a fine physique takes time, determination and continuous effort.
In order to understand this concept, below are several reasons why this way of eating works and delivers results:
1. Metabolism- By eating 4-6 small meals per day, you are taking in some food about every 3 hours. This means your body has to digest something every 3 hours. The process of digestion actually uses a fair amount of calories, so you are increasing your metabolic rate by doing this! If you eat five small meals or snacks throughout the day and at roughly the same time each day, your body will soon get into a new rhythm of eating. In essence, it will begin to trust that it will be fed regularly. It will begin to trust that it does not have to lock down what is held in storage within your fat cells, and it will begin to release body fat naturally. Your body will adjust so that it expends what you eat for fuel rather than conserve or store away nutrients for later use. This is the process of speeding up your metabolism!
2. Losing Body Fat-Through a physiological process called “Starvation Mode”, your body, after four hours or so, doesn’t know when it will get its next meal and “partitions” more of your next meal into fat cells than it would if you simply ate more often. Without a constant supply of small meals, commonly known as “grazing”, you’ll find yourself drowsy in the afternoon, fighting cravings, making impulsive food choices, bingeing, and, worst of all, gaining fat!By eating smaller meals, more frequently, you are hopefully taking in enough calories to cover immediate energy requirements and rebuilding muscle, without taking in excess that would be stored as body fat.
3. Level Blood Sugar- By eating more frequently, you maintain a more even blood sugar level. This means a fairly steady energy level, without all those highs and lows most people experience when eating only 3 large meals per day, with a long time between meals. (Anybody who works 9-5 and has indulged in a large lunch knows that sleepy, fatigued feeling that hits about 2:30pm)!
4. More Protein IntakeProtein builds and repairs muscle, and an ample intake is absolutely necessary if you are working out and challenging the body. But, like anything else, if you take in too much at once, the excess will be stored as body fat. By eating 4-6 small meals per day, you have more opportunities to increase protein consumption, without having too much at one sitting!
The whole idea is to make your body a fat-burning, muscle-building machine. By increasing lean muscle, you will burn more calories, even at rest (muscle is more metabolically active than fat).
Try to incorporate these methods of eating and see how it all comes together. I have found that by also starting a food journal you make better choices and are held accountable for what you eat.
Try to get it done, and let me know how it’s going for you. I would love to hear about your progress report. Enjoy your healthy eating!
Eduardo Lorenzo – NASM-CPT; specializes in sports performance, injury prevention, corrective exercises, physique enhancement and weight loss programs.