You’ve probably heard it from your trainer, your co workers, your friends and family; “you have to eat six meals a day so you can keep your body and metabolism fueled and in a fat burning state!” 

Many weight-loss books and fad diets claim six meals a day is the way to go.

But will it really make a difference? How accurate is this? Do we really need to snack?

This article is going to dig deep into the truth behind snacking and metabolism.

Unfortunately, science is still split on this issue. Some studies show a benefit to eating this way, while others find no discernible biological differences at all. 

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So which advice should you follow?

According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition[1] , increasing meal frequency from three meals a day to three meals plus three additional snacks did not promote greater weight loss.

Both groups consumed an equal amount of calories (2931 kJ/day) and both groups ended up losing a little less than five percent of body weight after eight weeks.

Additionally, another study[2] found no difference in energy balance between groups of people consuming either one meal or five meals in a two-week change-over trial.

So does that mean this is just another myth gone bust?

The theory behind it all is that the more often you eat throughout the day, the faster you will rev your metabolism. And the faster your metabolism, the more calories your body burns throughout the day. It kind of makes sense in theory but recent research contradicts this.

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And although some studies, like the two just mentioned, concluded there was no difference between eating fewer or more frequent meals as long as the number or calories remained the same, other studies contradict these findings. 

For example, a French study published in the journal Forum of Nutrition in 2003[3] found that people whose habitual diet pattern included a fourth meal – the so-called “goûter” or snack commonly eaten at 4 pm in France – had demonstrable benefits on Body Mass Index and metabolic profile, even though their total energy intake for the day is not greater than those who skip this meal.

The study states:

Increased feeding frequency leads to a reduction in the total secretion of insulin, an improvement in insulin resistance and a better blood glucose control, as well as an improvement in the blood lipid profile.

The experts agreed that, as long as we do not consume more energy than we use up and we only eat when we are hungry, it may be useful to split our total energy intake into as many meals as our social pattern allows.”

One of the major benefits is the improvement in insulin resistance and blood glucose control.

Remember, optimizing your insulin regulation is very importance, as that has a significant long-term impact not just on your weight, but on your overall health and chronic disease risk.

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Simply let your hunger dictate when to eat. An important caveat here though is to remember that WHAT you eat is essential.

If your body gets the nutrients it needs, your hunger will be a great indicator for when you need to eat. Just listen to your body, it never lies. 

Did you know that many people today are malnourished despite being overweight!

Consuming junk food and fast food that does not feed your body the nutrients it needs will often lead to eating far more calories than you need simply because your insulin- and other hormonal balances are out of whack.

Snacks, as long as they’re nutritious could help you avoid overeating later because you might tend to eat too quickly once you do sit down for a meal. It may also help you stick to healthier food choices in general, since many people tend to reach for fast food or quick and easy processed foods when they’re tired and hungry.

A great go to snack for is a scoop of Shakeology mixed with almond milk or coconut milk. It hits the spot every time. 

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Consuming junk food and fast food that does not feed your body the nutrients it needs will often lead to eating far more calories than you need simply because your insulin- and other hormonal balances are out of whack.

Let’s face it, there are only so many extra calories that the body can take before it adds those on as unwanted fat.

Even if you’re eating perfectly healthy meals and putting in your time at the gym, if your snacking too often then your results will be disappointing.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid The Snack Trap:

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1. Calories Count. Even when you’re snacking on “healthy” food, you may have to keep track of how many calories that you’re taking in. Almonds are healthy, but if you down 800 extra calories in them you’ll quickly gain weight.

2. Fill Up on Protein & Fat. A lot of well-meaning people are still afraid of fat. They think that if their snack is high in fat then it will end up on their body as fat. This is simply not true. Healthy fat, such as avocado or almonds, is a wonderful thing to snack on as it fills you up and keeps you full longer.

3. Avoid Sugar Calories. Sugar is an awful thing to snack on when weight loss is your goal. Refined sugar is a catalyst for fat storage, so avoid any snack that contains sugar. Remember that eating sugar will satiate your hunger for a very short period of time, and then you’ll quickly be hungry again.

4. Don’t Be Fooled By 100-Calorie Packs. A popular marketing technique is to package junk food into 100-calorie packs. These could be crackers, cookies, chips…basically any guilty snack food you could think of. The premise is that since you’re only eating 100 calories, the snack is healthy. I’m sorry, folks, but eating 100 calories of junk food is not a healthy snack. You are better off avoiding the junk completely and eating something wholesome. When you see these type of products I want you to think of the words “Chemical Shitstorm”.

5. Use The ‘Is It Real’ Test. As a rule of thumb, you should use the “Is it real?” test when deciding if a snack is worth eating. The test goes like this: If your snack can go bad, then it’s good for you. If your snack can’t go bad, then it’s bad for you. The idea is to eat fresh, real foods that are unprocessed and wholesome. These real foods are naturally filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals and will assist you in achieving your fitness goals.

6. Avoid Refined Carbohydrates. Processed and refined carbohydrates make up the bulk of popular snack foods. Take a look around the snack aisle at the grocery store and you will see that most packaged snacks are made with grains. When your goal is to lose weight and increase lean muscle then eating refined grains will work against you. If you only take one tip away from this article, let it be to remove grain-based snacks from your life. This single change could very well recharge your weight loss.

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Sources and References:

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19943985

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3592618

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15806828?

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