Traditionally, it was always thought that the best way to consume your daily food intake was to divide it into three separate meal times, spread evenly throughout the day. These being breakfast, lunch and dinner. As you were only eating three times a day, these meals tended to be large in both size and calorie intake. Any additional food consumed in between these meals would be grouped under the term ‘snacks’ and eaten as and when you required them.
In more recent times, with the progression of research investigations into both diet and the optimal food consumption methods, several alternative eating schedules have been put forward to replace the traditional three separate meal times. One of these, particularly popular amongst the health and fitness industry and athletes alike, is the consumption of six smaller portioned meals. These are spaced evenly throughout the day, following the pattern of breakfast, mid morning, lunch, mid afternoon, dinner and evening. This article considers the eating ‘little and often’ approach to determine what, if any, benefits this can provide to an individual.
Research into this alternative food consumption method, also referred to as ‘grazing’, has reported numerous health benefits, including the following;
Research has also highlighted that consuming smaller portions allows your digestive system to operate optimally. As there is not the same quantity to process, your body becomes more efficient at breaking down your food and it means that nearly all of the calories consumed will be taken and utilised by the body immediately. Conversely, when consuming a large meal, not all of the calories consumed are required by your body instantly and as a result will instead be stored within fat cells around the body. Consequently, the grazing approach can also be adopted by those looking to loose weight over a period of time.
Furthermore, grazing also enables your body to receive regular protein intake, which is needed to maintain your muscular mass and development, especially for those individuals that undertake regular weight training. In turn, muscles also burn more calories than fat, so by enhancing your muscle percentage you also enhance your ability to burn calories, creating a win-win situation for yourself and your body.
Does the six smaller meals a day schedule get your vote? Or are you sticking with your traditional three meals a day? Personally, the grazing approach is the winner for me. I have been adopting this eating habit for several years now and I can safely say that all of the above benefits are true. Not only that, but if you embrace the alternative eating schedule as part of a wider, healthier lifestyle, then it has the ability to make you both look and feel better. What more can you really ask for?
If you struggle or believe you would struggle to come up with a variety of foods to graze on throughout the day then why not consider some of the supplements listed below. These can be utilised as a snack, part of a larger meal or even a meal replacement itself dependant on your individual needs and requirements;