How Often Should You Eat? (Why What You Think Is Probably Wrong)

by Jackie Wicks

Many RDs (registered dietitians) and other nutritional professionals recommend eating frequent, small meals over fewer, larger meals for weight loss. Is this really the best practice though?

The short answer is that depending on your goals and what population you fit into (e.g., healthy adult, overweight, athlete, adolescent, etc.), the best practice for eating differs. For most of us, we fall into one of the three most common populations: healthy adult (weight maintenance), overweight (weight loss), and athlete (maximizing body composition).

Depending on what our goal is, we either need to eat to build up or to burn.

Our body has two important hormones for regulating our blood sugar, and by extension how we use any calories in general: insulin and glucagon. Insulin is an anabolic hormone, which means it helps our body “build up”.

This can be positive, as in muscle gain, or negative, as in fat gain. Insulin’s primary goal is to get rid of excess glucose in the blood, which means either pushing it to the muscles to use as energy or storing it in the fat for later use.

Glucagon, on the other hand, performs the opposite role. When our blood glucose starts dipping, it lets the body know to release more glucose from the stored glycogen to balance levels out. Our brain can only run off of glucose (with rare exceptions such as starvation) and so a constant, steady stream is vitally important to its function.

When glucagon is released, it also a signal to our body that we need to switch energy sources for other organs and our muscles from glucose to fat in order to preserve the glucose supply for the brain. This means that even though glucagon’s primary purpose is to increase blood glucose levels, it also ultimately increases the rate at which we burn fat, at least when we are at rest or only engaged in light activity.

Bottom line is that if you are looking to lose weight, you want to eat less often. Eat real meals that include a TON of vegetables. You want to maximize the amount of time between dinner for example, and the first meal you eat the next day.

If you are an athlete, and looking to build or maintain lean muscle mass in the context of low body fat, you want to eat more often to ensure muscle protein does not get broken down!

Read The Full Article Here: How Often Should You Eat?

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