A diet is basically the kind of food you eat. How often and what you choose to eat determines your health and lifestyle. Studies have shown that while exercise is an important factor, it is your diet which determines long term success.
A popular approach to a healthy diet is to have small and frequent meals. Generally, across the world, people are used to having two or three large meals. However, many dieticians and nutritionists are pushing for this major lifestyle change to small and frequent meals. The concept is to have small and nutritious meals every 2 hours; the objective being to pack more nutrition in smaller portions. This change in diet has shown a positive impact on those struggling with weight loss and lifestyle diseases.
The ‘metabolism’ factor
The basic concept behind weight loss, or any kind of body transformation, is the calculation of calories consumed. The idea is to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than the calories that have been consumed. The way the body burns these calories is through a chemical process known as metabolism.
Metabolism is an internal process through which the body burns calories to sustain your body organs and functions. Based on your height and weight, your body has a ‘basal metabolic rate’, or BMR, which is the minimum energy or calories required to keep your body alive. You will lose these calories every day even if you don’t do anything else! The metabolic rate increases as the body tries to digest the food you eat. It also increases with exercise.
When the body is sedentary, and there is a lot of gap between meals, the metabolic rate slows down, leading to lesser calorie burn. This is where eating frequent meals helps; as the body is continuously working to break down food, keeping the metabolic rate up. This helps in burning more calories over the period of a day, resulting in more weight loss.
Stable blood sugar levels
People who eat large infrequent meals notice that they crave for food a lot. This is because the body literally fasts till it receives the next meal. The human body converts food into glucose, so when you eat a large meal the glucose levels of the body increase immediately. After the glucose is released, your pancreas will release insulin to help your body utilize this glucose for nourishing the cells.
This entire cycle runs at a higher pace when the glucose levels rise immediately and crash soon once the glucose levels are depleted. During the course of a day, your body will experience such peaks and lows in the sugar levels based on the size and time of your meals. This creates unstable sugar levels through the day. In order to keep this sugar cycle stable, it is preferable to eat small and frequent meals. This way the body gets a continuous flow of glucose instead of at irregular intervals.
Also, when the blood sugar levels go down, cortisol, or the stress hormone, is released which leads to extreme cravings. These cravings lead you to consume harmful calories from sweets and junk food. Thus, a stable blood sugar level will lead to fewer binges and healthy eating.
Weight loss versus muscle loss
When the body is trying to convert energy, it often goes in for the most easily available source of energy. During the period of fasting, when the food has been digested, and there are no other sources of fuel, your body starts using muscles to function. The way the body is built, it focuses on muscle more than fat, as this is an evolutionary reaction to a crisis. If you are trying to build your muscles, then having small and frequent meals helps in maintaining the energy levels, leading to better muscle mass.
The objective of smaller and frequent meals is better nutrition. So ensure that you are eating a lot of fiber and nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts, instead of pure carbohydrates like bread and rice.
To sum it up – eat good food every two hours for a healthier body and mind.