Three square meals a day is the right way to go, isn’t it? At least that is what most of us have been brought up with. The BBC recently published an article called “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner: Have we always eaten them?” It is an interesting read, but the truth is that we haven’t always eaten them, and for a long time people really only ate one meal a day.
And we come to the modern era where we have almost limitless food choices. We have a large variety of types, textures, qualities, and quantities. And we can practically have food at any time of the day. While convenient, this abundance of food has certainly contributed to the additional layers of fat on our bodies.
So is there an optimal eating strategy? Could food timing have as big an effect, or a bigger effect, then the amount of calories we consume? And science continues to say the answer to this question is yes.
First there is the “grazing” strategy which is a meal plan revolving around eating approximately six meals per day, all of which only have about 200-300 calories. The idea behind this was that eating more often would stoke the calorie burning fires and you would burn off more calories during the day. Science has recently proven that this simply isn’t true. (Source)
The real reason to eat six meals a day is to help control hunger and cravings. By allowing yourself to have small snacks during the day you can help alleviate the hunger pangs that would normally cause you to overeat when it does come time to finally have a meal. Some people do still overeat with this strategy, but with proper planning you can always have the appropriately sized snacks available when you need them.
A more recent food trend is what I would call “gorging”. This is basically where you go long periods without food and possibly only eat one meal a day, but that one meal continues all your calories and nutrients for the day.
This trend has become popular along with other trends such as the Paleo Diet, “ancestral health”, and intermittent fasting. While the research is slowly but surely coming to support it, the results speak for themselves. People are getting super lean with this eating strategy.
While both eating strategies seem to work for helping people lose weight, neither is full proof. You can still overeat either way, and what works well for one person doesn’t always work for someone else. You should experiment, keep good notes on the effects, and decide which works best for you.
Personally I have always been a big fan of eating breakfast, but I switched to only eating two big meals a day (sometimes one), and it seems to be working for me. I’ve been slowly losing some fat and gaining some muscle from my workouts. I also have much better energy levels after giving up high carbohydrate breakfasts.
If you research “intermittent fasting” you will soon discover some of the health benefits associated with it. One article that explains it really well is “Ready, Set, Fast” over at The Art of Manliness website. He also provided links to all the National Institutes of Health studies on the health benefits of fasting including lowered blood pressure, better cholesterol numbers, controlling blood sugar, etc.
So do a little research, do a little experimentation, and see what works best for you!
This is our 35th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…