The theory goes that by doing this, you give your body a stready stream of calories, vitamins and minerals. Your body is never in a fasted state. It always has access to what it needs (be that protein, fat or carbs) to build and repair muscle tissue.
The logic also implies that skipping a meal is very bad. The fear is that your body will start breaking down your hard earned muscle mass for energy in the absence of food.
I used to believe that eating 5-6 small meals a day was key to weight loss and a successful body transformation.
Now I have my doubts.
5 Reasons Why Eating Every 2-3 Hours Sucks
Eating every 2-3 hours sucks for many reasons.
1. You’re always thinking about food
You are never more than 3 hours from your next meal. There is a constant level of anxiety and fear. Will I be near a food source? Should I pack a cooler to take with me? What if I can’t find anything suitable to eat? I want to minimise stress in my life, and eating every 3 hours is stressful.
2. You’re hungry all the time
Because your total daily calories are split over 6 meals, each meal is relatively small. Even if you have 3 main meals and 2-3 snacks, the meals are generally in the 400-600 calorie range (normally towards the lower end).
A 400 calorie meal is pretty damn whimpy. That’s not a man meal. That’s not going to fill you stomach and make you feel satisfied. As a result you are hungry for most of the day.
3. You can’t relax and enjoy yourself
You go out for a family dinner. Everyone else is tucking in to a huge meal, including starter, main and desert. You have to settle for just a main. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to join in and have 3 courses?
What if you wanted a tomato and avocado salad, followed by a large steak with sauted spinach and green beans, followed by a portion of blueberries mixed with greek yogurt?
It’s a very healthy and primal meal, but would come close to exceeding your daily calorie allowance in one fell swoop. If you are stuck in the eat 5-6 small meals routine, you can never enjoy a meal like that except on a ‘cheat’ day.
4. You waste your time preparing food
You might prepare your food in the morning, or late at night, but one way or another it has to be done. Veggies have to be washed and chopped. Meat has to be marinated and grilled.
The very act of preparing 5-6 meals per day is tiresome.You could survive on protein shakes, but everyone knows real food is far superior. If you were able to ate just two meals per day the amount of time you spend in the kitchen would be slashed significantly (not to mention the amount of money you would say on food).
5. You have to carry food around all day
I’m out of the house for 10 hours every day. That’s 3-4 meals I would have to carry with me if I followed the eat every 2-3 hour rule.
I don’t want to carry a cool bag around with me like some sort of weird picnic-o-phile.
I’ve stood outside a bar in the past and mixed up a protein shake whilst everyone else was inside enjoying themselves. I got some strange looks.
When eating is getting in the way of living it’s time for a change.
Two Alternative Ways Of Eating
I suggest you forget about eating every 2-3 hours, unless you really enjoy it. Get the notion that your body is going to cannibalise your muscle if you don’t feed it at regular intervals – it just isn’t true.
Think back to primal man. In times or scarcity he might have gone a day or two with nothing to eat. And yet he remained lean and strong. You won’t waste away, I promise.
Instead, I propose two alternative eating strategies. Which one you choose is up to your persoanl preferences and lifestyle.
1. Eat when you are hungry
Hunger is your bodies way of telling you it needs calories. Use it as a guide to indicate when you need to eat. If you wake up and don’t feel like breakfast, then don’t eat. If you get to 10am and are revenous, eat something.
If you overeat during one meal, then magically your body will probably not want another meal that day – that’s the beauty of listening to your body. Don’t stuff yourself again just because it has reached ‘dinner’ time.
2. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is a real buzz word in the diet and fitness industry right now – with good reason. I have seen incredible fat loss results from people who have switched from eating every 2-3 hours, to eating 1 or 2 times per day.
The gist of intermittent fasting is simple – you go for a period where you eat nothing (the fast), then you break the fast with a period of eating.
During the fast, your body must find energy from somewhere. It inevitably turns to your fat cells, causing fatty acids to be used for fuel rather than glucose from carbs. By placing yourself in a fast for several hours everyday, you are literally forcing your body to lose fat.
The length of fast is up to you, but the two popular methods are:
- Fasting for 24 hours, once per week.
- Fasting everday for a set time period. For example, you fast for 16 hours then eat for 8 hours between the hours of 12 noon and 8pm every day.
The benefits of eating 5-6 small meals per day are exagerated. They do work for fat loss, but ultimately they are difficult to continue for life.
Instead, try intermittent fasting or simply listening to your body for clues as to when to eat.
You won’t lose muscle, and these new ways of eating may even speed up your fat loss because your body is placed into a calorie deficit for several hours per day.