When did eating become so confusing? Your trainer may tell you that eating every two hours speeds up your metabolic rate. You’ve heard that nibbling is better than eating full meals for losing weight. In fact, neither of these is correct. Calorie intake and calorie output through exercise determines weight. According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, exercise is the only way to burn more calories and increase metabolism.
The number of times Americans eat each day has increased in the last 30 years, along with the rise in obesity. (A full 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.) Calorie intake is higher now partly because of oversnacking. Most adults need to eat every five to six hours for maximum energy and performance. That equates to three meals and one snack. Unfortunately, when people follow the trend of eating every two hours, they add three snacks to normal meal portions instead of eating six snack-size meals. This leads to a substantial increase in daily calories.
Mild hunger symptoms just before mealtime are a good indication that you need to refuel. Too often, the urge to eat stems from habit or watching a co-worker eat a candy bar, not from physical symptoms of real hunger. If you’re unsure knowing whether or not you’re hungry, you’re probably not.
Skipping meals often results in overloading when you do eat. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that perceived appetite increases and perceived satiety decreases when one or two meals are eliminated in a day. This makes you eat more, which results in a higher glycemic load. Higher blood sugar requires more insulin production, which causes inflammation and stimulates body fat production.
To maintain a long, healthy life, watch your calories in and your calories out. Eat three regular meals and one to two snacks daily, or eat every five to six hours. Just as importantly, exercise regularly to keep your metabolism high.
PAULETTE LAMBERT, RD, CDE, is nutrition director for the California Health and Longevity Institute at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village