A recent debate questions whether we should eat three meals a day or five to six meals a day for optimum health and fitness. Nutritional experts are divided about this, but all of them agree that skipping meals is detrimental to overall fitness success.
Individual metabolism seems to be the key in determining how many meals a day to eat. However, if you eat only two to three meals a day you are probably not making your metabolism work as hard as it is supposed to. You may feel tired with a loss of energy and wind up turning toward snacks, which may not be as carefully chosen as an actual meal. With five to six meals a day, you have more opportunities to plan to eat correctly as opposed to snacking on junk food.
Deciding to eat 5 or 6 meals a day gives you the opportunity to think about what you are eating and plan meals that include the four food groups. The portions you serve should equal the size of your heart, which is approximately the size of your fist. Exercising portion control and spreading your meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism working properly, giving you plenty of energy. Also, smaller portions help you to avoid overeating and do not make you as sluggish as eating a huge meal. Having several meals during the day gives you the opportunity to add more variety to your diet, as well as avoid pangs of hunger from going too long without eating.
The ADA suggests that you ask yourself three questions when deciding how and when to eat:
– Am I hungry? If you are not, wait 20 minutes.
– When was the last time I ate? Meals should usually be about three hours apart.
– Could a small snack tide me over until my next meal? Of course, fruit and veggies are preferred choices for snacks in between meals.
In summary about the debate regarding three meals a day versus six, Gary Schwartz (researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine) states, “There’s no strong data supporting either as being being more effective. Clearly, there is an emphasis on reducing caloric intake overall, whether it be by decreasing meal size and/or decreasing meal frequency.”
You can develop a truly effective individual fitness plan by counting calories, exercising regularly and carefully monitoring how your metabolism reacts to the number of meals you eat daily.