To snack or not to snack?

to snack or not to snack

There is conflicting information about whether we should snack between meals or just eat stick with 3 main meals. Not only is eating plans to suggest what to eat but how often. So it’s a question of snack or not to snack?

There is the theory that by having frequent small meals throughout the day speeds up your metabolism, promote satiety, and control blood sugar levels. Somehow all this means you are consuming more frequently but total energy intake is less.  Studies have shown that this way of eating usually leads to overconsumption of calories and hence an increase in weight as it has inconsistent results on hunger. In a way you’re not teaching your body how to deal with the feeling of hunger and always ‘topping up’ which doesn’t allow the digestive system. We are becoming a society of snackers.

On the other hand there are studies to suggest that cutting your meal timing down to just one or three main meals a day reduces total calories and reduces the cravings that come with constantly eating or the need to eat.

Unfortunately, the research on the metabolic effects of consuming a large meal versus many small meals is mixed.  The jury is still out on the benefits of increasing meal frequency, but we do know this much. Research suggests that a regular pattern of eating may have a metabolic edge over a more irregular meal pattern. The real benefit of eating more frequent, smaller meals over the course of your day may not be in regulating metabolism as much as it is in warding off hunger.

The types of snacks you choose will also have a huge impact on the total number of calories, for example, if you use it to your advantage by eating something nutrient dense or simply just snack on biscuits and processed foods. Portion distortion will always undo any efforts in controlling your weight so be wary of eating out of a packet and try to dish out the required amount.

The important thing to do before changing your meal frequency is to determine what will get you through your day feeling satiated and energized. For some, the standard three square meals per day may suffice. However, others may find that spreading more meals over the course of the day offers real benefits in terms of warding off the munchies and keeping unwanted pounds at bay, which may be the case in sportspeople where they already have super high metabolisms from high energy workouts and more lean muscle.

To conclude it seems that any effects of meal pattern on the regulation of body weight are likely to be mediated through effects on the food intake side of the energy balance equation. It always comes back to energy in = energy out to promote or maintain body weight.

What’s your take on the snacking? What do you find works for you?

pic via – American Heart Foundation

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