If someone was to ask me to give one piece of advice it would be this: eat only enough so that you are hungry in 3 hours and then repeat. I think it makes the biggest impact to overall health.
I say this because:
- Digestion is very taxing on the body. Eating smaller meals avoids this.
- Digestion can break down nutrients contained in food, lessening digestion time can increase the nutrient yield from a meal.
- Quickened food absorption into the blood will help to stabilize sugar levels, allow for more consistent energy levels and the quick availability of nutrients improves exercise recovery potential.
- Complete digestion improves bowel movement frequency and consistency.
- Most junk or fast food meals cannot be digested quickly enough to be consumed automatically increasing the quality of the food that you eat.
Moving to this type of eating can be difficult however, as it requires a fairly substantial change in your eating habits. The three square meals a day approach that most of us were raised on was based on the need to maintain an 9-12 hour work day, allowing for big enough sized meals that would help someone avoid hunger until the next meal. This approach is effective at doing this, but it isn’t ideal for most people any more, given that we have improved freedom to eat whenever we need to vs. whenever we are allowed to.
The consequence to not eating whenever we need to, or to eating to avoid hunger for longer than 3 hours is fat gain unless you are particularly active. I say this because the body adapts to getting food every 5-6 hours and will come to rely on transient body fat to fuel energy requirements not met through eating – those periods of time when a meal is being digested and has no impact on blood levels. If we introduce food every 3 hours, we decrease the reliance on body fat to power our energy needs.
It will take you about a month of eating smaller meals every 3 hours before it becomes part of your daily life, but you can enjoy the improved health benefits after only a week or so. If your schedule and work allow for it, give it a try. It’s helped me add lean muscle mass and lower my body fat.