Do I have to eat every 2 or 3 hours?
Breakfast, lunch and an evening meal. Originally these are the three meals a day, of course supplemented with a number of snacks. Nowadays, however, you increasingly see that 5 or even more meals are eaten per day. But why do people do this and is it useful?
Losing weight through multiple small meals
Several small meals throughout the day would increase the metabolism. This would make you lose weight faster. Unfortunately, this is not true.
Research has shown that it is irrelevant how often you eat a day and / or every how many hours this is when it comes to losing weight (1).
To lose weight, it is essential to have a calorie deficit at the end of the day. Your body burns more energy (kcal) than you have eaten. Because of this, it needs to use up the reserves, which will result in weight loss.
More muscle mass through multiple meals
This too, is a myth. One does not become catabolic (state of muscle breakdown) by not eating for an x number of hours. The energy balance at the end of the day is what it's all about in this case too. A calorie surplus ensures that mass is put on, no matter at what time of the day this surplus is created.
Not eating for too long can result in a change in the hormone balance. The stress hormone cortisol increases, which will logically result in more stress.
Nutrition also plays a major role in brain functions, such as the ability to concentrate. Your brain gets its energy from glucose. The body can store glucose as glycogen and is always looking for a balance in this.
If the glucose level, also called blood sugar level, falls below a certain limit, you must replenish it. In healthy people, the blood sugar level is lowest about 3 hours after a meal. It is therefore important to keep supplying the body with glucose gradually. Carbohydrate-rich foods are essential for its supply. After digestion, carbohydrates mainly enter the blood as glucose.
The first meal of the day plays a major role in blood sugar regulation. This meal stimulates cells to increase insulin contractions before the second meal (2). Insulin is a hormone and lowers blood sugar.
The feeling of hunger also plays a role in the timing of the meals. Ghrelin is a hormone produced by the stomach when it is empty. It signals to your brain that the stomach needs to be filled again. Usually this results in a quick (unhealthy) snack, which is often fattening. To prevent this, it is best to get ahead of the hunger feeling by eating on time.