Should you eat 6 small, healthy meals each day or skip snacks and fast occasionally?
I get asked these questions often as people try to optimize meal timing to drop weight or improve their overall health.
So what’s the answer? Well, I recommend both strategies to clients.
**The Pros of 6 Eating Small Meals**
The primary purpose of eating 6 small healthy meals a day is that it helps start the process of balancing blood sugar.
Those struggling with weight gain typically are blood sugar imbalanced. They often have blood sugar dips in between meals. Eating frequently is a good initial step in getting blood sugar balanced as is replacing processed food, which is high in refined carbohydrates, with meals that contain natural fat, protein, and unprocessed carbs (e.g. fruit and vegetables).
As an added benefit, when eating smaller meals, people tend to eat more slowly and more mindfully. Your digestive system works better when it is not overloaded by too much food. Healthy digestion is key to weight loss and overall health.
Furthermore, when you eat slowly, your body has time to tell your brain that it’s full before you overeat. Overeating unhealthy food can lead to weight gain and health issues. (Having said that, please make sure to eat plenty of healthy food and don’t cut your calories dramatically as that will negatively impact your health. Most people eat too few of the good quality calories.)
**The Pros of Skipping Snacks**
We weren’t designed to need a constant input of food energy. Our ancestors didn’t have a supermarket or gas station on every corner with food. They labored to find their food, and there were times of both feast and famine.
A healthy human body doesn’t need constant food energy to survive. We should be able to go for more than a few hours before needing food again. In fact, we should be able to go for a day or so without food. So why can’t most of us do that?
The bodies of most modern day folks have adapted to rely on sugar and carbohydrates as a fuel source rather than on fat. This causes us to be sugar burners vs. fat burners, like our ancestors.
Luckily, it’s possible to turn the tide and become a lean, mean, fat-burning machine.
Cutting snacks, after your blood sugar is balanced (e.g. no energy dips between meals), has many positive effects. It can help the body burn adipose tissue (body fat) more efficiently, improve athletic endurance, support digestion, increase daily detoxification, and balance weight.
**Action Steps to be a Fat Burner:**
1. Replace processed food with delicious, nutrient dense, whole-food fuel as a first step. Eat healthy snacks between meals.
2. Spend 2-4+ weeks on a paleo type diet, which will help balance your blood sugar. Continue eating healthy snacks.
3. Remove the snacks and see how you feel. If your energy dips without them, eat snacks for several more weeks until you no longer need them.
4. Transition back on to some healthy starchy carbs, such as sweet potatoes.
5. Enjoy the benefits of being a fat burner!