Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Many Meals a Day Should I eat?

Chickpea Snacks
Photo Credit: Jenny 

Whether it is the generic three meal a day plan or a six meal a day meal plan, you should eat to best suit your body. Snacking is OKAY. I was raised to eat three meals a day. I used to eat three meals a day all through infancy to my senior year of high school.  Occasionally, during my high school's advisory or club periods, people would bring snacks, but they would always bring bagels, doritos or cookies. They would make me feel sick and burnt out, so I would never eat them and suffer through my hunger until lunch.

By the time I got to my freshman year of college, I found that I also become extremely hungry around 3 pm and I would wind up snacking on healthy foods, and sometimes even junk if my friends had it around just to feel better. I also noticed that many people were always snacking, but snacking on junk food.

 I started to drink protein shakes for my morning and afternoon snacks during the middle of my sophomore year, and they made me feel so much better. I had a lot more energy and did not feel weak and dizzy. I basically was not eating enough to support how active I was. You can still have snacks, maintain or lose weight, but they should be nutritious and beneficial snacks for your body.  When I did not have time to drink a shake in the middle of the day, I would eat a larger meal at breakfast and lunch, and I could actually make it through to lunch and dinner. I did not gain weight from eating more snacks or eating more at my three meals, and actually lost weight.

If I am at college or have a long day at home, I now eat breakfast at 7:30 or 8:00 am, have a small snack at 10:30, eat lunch around noon, have another snack after my afternoon workout and dinner between 5:30-6:30 pm. After that I try not to eat again unless I am famished. If I have a shorter day or sleep in later, I will eat breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and then dinner. I try to eat after my workout. If I do not workout in the afternoon and choose to workout in the morning, I will have a small snack before working out, so I do not burn out during my workout. Then I will eat a larger breakfast after.

According to many sites, "eating breakfast" jump starts your day, and 5-6 meals a day helps to speed up your metabolism and reduce "spikes" in blood sugar.  Eating three meals a day or six meals a day will result in the same effect as long as long as you eat an appropriate amount of calories suitable for your body. I can tell you that there is no difference from my experience.

The best time to eat your meals is based on your ability to eat healthy and nutritious meals and your schedule, and if your body wants food.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are generally eaten four to five hours apart. If you are hungry and famished for breakfast like I always am, EAT breakfast. I know that if I skip breakfast, I will be most likely to overeat later from being overly hungry.

True hunger is gradual and you will feel it physically and mentally. If you are hungry at 10:00 am or 4:00 pm, eat a healthy snack and do not deprive yourself. I have even sometimes eaten a 200-300 calorie snack at midnight and did not put on any weight.  If you are not hungry, you might not need to snack or eat. But remember to eat a snack (protein) after working out so your body can recover. Eat at least 1200 calories a day, which is the minimum any person should eat.

 In short, I recommend eating when you feel like it and when your body needs food. Listen to your body. Only you can decide what is best for you, your body and your schedule.

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