Snacks or No Snacks, 3 Meals or 6 Meals: What’s in the Details?
I must get asked these questions a few times a day:
Is it okay if I snack between meals?
Should I eat 3 meals a day or 6 small meals a day?
To answer simply: there is no right formula and it is dependent on multiple factors like:
- Your lifestyle details
- How often your body needs to eat
- The balance your body requires and
- How much you are consuming at each meal or snack
The one answer that is without question is this: going more than 5 hours without food (except when you are sleeping) is a set up for low blood sugar, overeating at the next meal and a sluggish metabolism.
How you set it up from there depends on you.
It is important to eat breakfast and eating sooner (within an hour of waking) rather than later is advantageous to both your metabolic rate and to not overeating at the next meal. There are even a few new studies that show breakfast can lower risk of heart disease.
If you rise at 6:30 am, and have breakfast by 7:30 when do you normally consume lunch? If it is at 1:30 you may need to have a mid morning snack but if you normally eat lunch before 12:30 you may not need a snack.
Most individuals need an afternoon snack, unless you have an early bird dinner.
One of the most advantageous things you can do is eat dinner and not eat an evening snack.
Going to bed a little hungry allows your body to utilize all the food you’ve eaten during the day and tap into fat stores overnight, getting your body ready for the next day.
Some studies now point towards eating a larger meal at breakfast and lunch and having a light supper or snack at the end of your day instead of having a large meal and going to bed. Since most of the energy we expend is during the day it makes sense to eat the bulk of your calories when you really need them.
Whether you eat 3 meals or smaller meals depends on how much you are actually consuming at those meals.
If you like to eat smaller amounts of food, 6 meals may be okay but if you are eating 3 larger meals and snacks you may be overshooting your metabolic needs.
One alternative factor is whether you are insulin sensitive versus resistant. If you are insulin resistant every time you eat your body secretes insulin that may be sluggish or resistant which can increase your appetite and desire to over eat so eating fewer meals may be in your best interest.
Eating according to your metabolic rate with balanced regularly spaced meals is the key. How you map that out is up to you and what works for your body and schedule.
Eating consistent balanced meals is what is important for optimal health.