It takes about 3 hours to fully digest a meal. After a meal food is broken down into sugar,the sugar then travels through the blood, providing energy to your entire body (controlled by insulin hormone). This means that each time you eat, your blood sugar levels spike. In total it takes two to three hours for blood sugar levels to go up and then back down again.
If you eat a large meal, you dump large amounts of fuel into your system at one time – more fuel than your body needs. Frequent, small meals on the other hand deliver manageable amounts of energy over the course of the day, which your body can utilize immediately.
SMALL MEALS FOR BETTER WEIGHT LOSS
Smaller, more frequent meals has numerous benefits.
1. FEWER CRAVINGS
Long periods between eating can lead to poor food choices and quickly turn weight loss into weight gain. Low blood sugar stimulates hunger, therefore, you’ll cut down on cravings. Cravings often happen simply because you let yourself get too hungry or waited too long to eat. If you eat frequently, you won’t be ravenous, and you can make the tastiest and most nutritious food choices. Even better, you’ll avoid overeating and filling up on empty calories.
2. LESS HUNGER
The great thing about eating every three hours, is that it actually feels as though you’re eating more food than usual (you’re not – your calorie intake is calculated!). Psychologically you do not feel deprived because it seems you’re eating more often.
3. REDUCED CHOLESTEROL
Research by the University of Toronto suggests that switching to several smaller meals reduced participants’ total cholesterol levels by approximately 8% and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels by 12%. Frequent meals kept blood sugar levels more even, helping to eliminate insulin spikes that can trigger cholesterol production.
4. SUSTAINED ENERGY
Food supplies the body with energy and the body in turn burns this energy to function. It is relatively easy to upset this delicate balance by skipping meals or going too long without food. When your blood sugar levels are high, you feel energised. Conversely, when they drop your energy levels plummet.
Eating frequently helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, meaning you’ll feel more energized all day long. Furthermore, studies have shown that female athletes who ate every three hours concentrated better, moved faster and could exercise for longer periods of time.
This means not only do you get through your day better, but also that you can exercise harder and burn more calories during your workouts!
5. MOOD STABILITY
There is a strong scientific connection between food and mood. Eating more often can alter brain chemistry. The key is to include complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, all of which help maintain levels of serotonin (a mood-boosting chemical) in the brain. Anti-depressants work similarly – by increasing serotonin levels. The right foods can accomplish the same thing.
HOW TO MAKE IT WORK
Bear in mind to eat enough to feel satisfied, but not overly full. Eat often and in moderate amounts, just enough that you are not hungry again for another three hours.
The sizing of your 5 meals depends on your calorie requirements. You can try six equal-sized small meals or three small meals with two or three “snacks” each day. Every meal or “snack” should contain protein. Whether it is yoghurt or a sandwich, make sure it contains protein.