How Often Should You Eat

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?

[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]…Depending on your goals, the best practice for eating differs.[/quote]

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).

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.

Insulin: Our “Building” Hormone

Whether it provides muscular energy or gets stored is a product of your current situation–if you are working out (and you are not insulin resistant or have another disease affecting your blood glucose), chances are high that all of the carbs you ingest (up to about 60 grams per hour, our body’s average maximum for carbohydrate oxidation) will be used for energy, not storage.

If, on the other hand, you’ve been sedentary all day, or have high glycogen stores and low energy needs, then this excess sugar will be converted into fat for storage (glycogen is how our body stores carbs, and we have very limited quantities of it).

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