Why You Desperately Need To Eat Six Meals a Day, Every Day!
by Lee Labrada
Do your energy levels dip and sag during the day? At times do you lose mental focus and struggle to be productive at work? Do you ever feel “bloated” and lethargic after a big meal? Do you often experience unpleasant hunger pangs, uncontrollable cravings or irritability? Has your progress towards a lean, muscular body come to a screeching halt, no matter how hard you work in the gym?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, don’t worry any longer. Your problem may simply be that you aren’t eating frequently enough throughout the day!
And no, I didn’t say “You aren’t eating enough.” I said you may not be “eating frequently enough.” There’s a big difference between the two!
Ask any sports nutrition expert how many times throughout the day you should eat to increase lean body mass, energy levels, and mental focus, while decreasing body fat and you’re likely to hear the magic number: “six.” (And accurately so.)
If there’s one thing virtually every “expert” in this field agrees on it’s something called “frequent feedings.” (I don’t know of any qualified expert who doesn’t “preach” this concept.”
Almost everyone agrees that eating more often is the best way to feed your body but do you really understand why? (Once you learn the answer to this question, chances are you’ll never eat just “three-squares” ever again!)
Why Six Daily Meals?
Eating six daily meals can help you:
1. Boost energy levels: Research on diabetics supports the fact that eating every three hours is one of the best ways to stabilize blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are stable, energy levels increase and are more consistent throughout the day. On the other hand, think of a time when you over-ate to the point where you felt uncomfortable. What happened to your energy levels next? Chances are, an hour or so after eating, you were unconscious on the couch while your body was busy adding an extra layer of fat to your midsection!
2. Increase mental focus and productivity while decreasing stress: I’ve found that when my blood sugar levels are stable, I think more clearly and my productivity increases tremendously. In addition, I find that I’m better able to cope with stressful situations as they arise during the day. (Believe me, like many people, I’m no joy to be around if I miss a meal!)
3. Decrease food cravings and overeating: If you experience severe hunger or food cravings followed by periods of overeating, you’re a prime candidate for increasing your meal frequency. Here’s a funny story to illustrate my point. In my early 20’s I used to share an apartment my friend Stoney Grimes. Both of us were training for an upcoming bodybuilding show and Stoney started skipping meals in order to lose some extra body fat. Well, just days before the show, Stoney didn’t show up for our scheduled workout, so I went looking for him. I found him locked in his car, covered from head to toe in the remains of two dozen boxes of powdered sugar donuts. I mean, the white powdered sugar was everywhere! He got so hungry he completely lost control and literally attacked the “baker’s dozen.” Bottom line: eat frequently before you get hungry to stop cravings!
4. Increase assimilation of the foods you eat: (Very important point!)It is my experience that the body can only efficiently assimilate (or “absorb”) certain amounts of various nutrients in one sitting. (The amount will vary amongst individuals.) For example, let’s say your goal is to ingest 210 grams of protein each day. Your body will better assimilate six meals containing 35 grams of protein each (for a total of 210 grams) rather then two meals containing 105 grams of protein. In a nutshell, by eating protein six times a day, you’ll utilize more protein for muscle growth and recovery as compared to eating the same amount of protein over three meals. The same goes for many other nutrients. So, by eating frequent meals, you can protect yourself against the nutritional deficiencies that are quite common in physically active individuals.
5. Boost Your Metabolism: No kidding. Studies indicate that eating protein rich meals frequently accelerates the metabolism so that you actually burn more calories throughout the day. This is the result of a process called the “thermic effect” of foods. The thermic effect is the energy your body expends to digest and use the food you ingest. This thermic effect is highest for protein, followed by carbs and fats.
Now, if these five points don’t convince you how vitally important it is to start eating six meals a day, every day, then nothing will!
But I’m warning you: you can’t just eat anything you want during your six daily meals and expect results. You have to combine your foods in a certain way. However, unless you’re gunning for an upcoming body building show (or you’re a stickler for detail) I don’t see a need to count every single calorie you eat. (You’ll drive yourself crazy doing this.) Instead I recommend you count portions instead.
How to Count Portions
I recommend dividing your meal plate into “thirds.” Cover one third of your plate with a lean protein source such as fish, turkey, or chicken. Cover the second third of your plate with a complex carb such as a baked potato or brown rice. And cover the last third with a fibrous vegetable such as a green leafy salad, broccoli, or green beans. (You should change foods regularly to insure you’re getting a variety of nutrients.)
Another common way to determine appropriate portion sizes for your six meals is to think of a portion of protein as an amount equal to the size of your palm. A carb portion would then be equal to the size of your fist. As would a vegetable portion, which you would add a few times per day.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Who has time to make six of these meals each day?” Am I right?
How Can I Eat Six Meals a Day?
If so, here are a few things you can do:
1. Pick up your phone book. Look under culinary schools. Call a few to locate a chef that can prepare you great tasting, low-fat foods. I’ve done this in the past and it’s a real time saver (they bring the food to you in containers each week) and not much more expensive than eating out.
2. Pick two days a week to prepare large amounts of food yourself. Pack meal-sized portions of food in Zip-Loc bags, then freeze them and thaw as needed. (Look for high-protein, low-fat recipes in your favorite magazines.)
3. Use convenient meal replacement drink mixes and bars as meal substitutes throughout the day. (I eat three regular meals and have two to three Lean Body Meal Replacement Drink Mixes, and a Lean Body Bar, every day.)
I’m confident this week’s tip has revealed the real importance of eating frequently every day. Now I encourage you to stop procrastinating and take action to start applying this knowledge now!
Until next time, I am
Your Lean Body Coach™
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