How important are 3 meals a day?
The simple answer is this; how often you eat all boils down to whether or not your body uses GLUCOSE or FAT for energy. Our bodies can run on either of these two fuel sources. What you eat determines which one you use. People that consume a high-carb/low-fat diet will invariably be burning glucose for fuel. Let’s call them sugar-burners. Those following a low-carb/high-fat diet will be burning fat. These people we will call the fat-burners. Each of these fuel sources has a very different effect on one’s body, especially the hormones that regulate hunger and satiety.
The sugar burners (carb lovers)
Sugar burners generally need to eat every couple of hours. This is because a high carbohydrate diet raises blood sugar levels each time you eat. The body copes with this sugar overload by releasing insulin. The surge of insulin brings your blood sugar crashing down a short while later. This rollercoaster ride of rising and falling blood sugar and insulin levels makes you hungry, even when your last meal or snack was only 1 hour ago. Hunger is distracting, affects energy levels, moods and concentration. Therefore, sugar-burners feel the need to eat frequently. Think of carbs as kindling for the fire that is your metabolism. Kindling is not particularly effective to keep the fire burning for a long period of time, unless you are frequently replenishing the fuel source. The high insulin levels that sugar-burners often experience, also promotes inflammation, speeds up the ageing process, and can lead to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is also very difficult to lose weight when you are a sugar-burner, as your body is never given the chance to burn stored fat.
The bottom-line for sugar-burners:
- You generally need to eat three meals a day plus snacks to avoid hunger and low energy levels.
- You could be at higher risk for disease, as a result of high insulin levels.
- You may struggle to lose weight.
- Skipping meals makes you “hangry” – i.e. hungry and tired.
The fat burners (fuelled by butter and bacon!)
Fat-burners have a distinct advantage over sugar-burners. They only need to eat every 5 to 7 hours. Eating just two meals a day, and not needing to snack is quite normal. This is not because they have huge amounts of willpower, and are able to fight the hunger signals. They just aren’t as hungry. Eating low carb and high fat foods means they are keeping their blood sugar and insulin levels stable throughout the day. Fat is satiating. It is like a huge log thrown onto the fire, which burns slowly and provides heat for a long time. Once your body has adapted to being a fat-burner, it becomes much easier to start skipping meals, or only eating twice a day. Cravings for carbs and sugar go away, making it so much easier to stick to a healthy eating plan long-term. Energy levels, mood, and concentration improve too. The low and stable insulin levels of a fat-burner, also means that they stand a better chance of ageing well, and avoiding disease. Another bonus is that they are able to burn stored fat, making weight loss that much easier.
The bottom-line for fat-burners:
- You enjoy a naturally reduced appetite and consistently good energy levels.
- You have stable insulin levels throughout the day, and therefore are at a lower risk for disease.
- You may find it becomes easier to lose weight.
- Skipping meals is often easy to do.
- Note: If you prefer to have 3 meals a day there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you are a women, are highly stressed or have adrenal fatigue issues or you are very active.
The in-betweeners (the newbies)
It is important at this point to mention a third category of people. I like to call them the “in-betweeners”. These are folk who used to be sugar-burners, but have recently adopted a low-carb/high-fat way of eating. They are progressing towards being a fat-burner, but they aren’t quite there yet. This is because the transition doesn’t happen overnight. It can take up to 4 weeks. In-betweeners might struggle with only having 2 meals a day, and should rather continue to eat 3 LCHF meals, until their appetite is naturally reduced. Just make sure hunger is real, and not a result of boredom, habit or thirst. Really listen to your body. Being hungry is temptation’s gateway, which can lead to bingeing on sugar and carbs. A binge would be a major set back. Avoid snacking at all costs, unless a snack is your third meal for the day. If you find that you are struggling to transition, try experimenting a little. Lower the carbs even more, increase your fat intake, and ensure that you aren’t eating too much protein. Once you find your own unique winning formula, you WILL transition to fat-burner status, where weight loss becomes easier, and hunger is diminished.
The bottom-line for in-betweeners:
- You are in transition, and therefore might still experience hunger, cravings, and low energy levels.
- You will probably need 3 meals a day until your body has fully adapted to burning fat for fuel.
- You should not feel the need to snack between meals anymore.
- You aren’t really ready to start skipping meals yet as you might feel hungry and fatigued.
- You need to be patient – fat adaptation can take a few weeks to a couple of months for some people.
Am I fat-adapted yet?
Here are some common signs that you have transitioned fully to FAT-burner status:
- appetite greatly reduced
- energy levels are constant all day long (no more afternoon crashes)
- happier moods
- sleep improves
- you feel physically stronger
- you start burning fat without losing muscle
- cravings go away
- low carb flu issues go away
- you feel awesome!
The good news is that we don’t need to wait around for a magic pill that will miraculously take away hunger, make us slim and improve our health. We have what we need to achieve the results we want – REAL and delicious LCHF food. When you become a true fat-burner, you will see the magic start to happen. The key to success is to commit 100%, give it time, persevere through the struggles, listen to your body, make it a lifestyle, and don’t compare your progress to others.
So, how important are 3 square meals a day? It all depends on which category you identify with at this point in time. I think it is more important to be a FAT-burner who eats 2- 3 times a day (as true hunger signals dictate), than a SUGAR burner or IN-BETWEENER forcing themselves to skip meals in the name of intermittent fasting, and suffering the consequences of trying to do something their bodies are not ready to do yet.
Updated article by Nicky Perks. Originally published on the Lose It Magazine website.
Posted on July 28, 2016, in Primal 101 and tagged 3 meals a day, fat burner, glucose burner, intermittent fasting, LCHF diet, snacking, sugar burner, two meals a day. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.