Over the past six months or so, I’ve completely transformed my way of eating. I feel like I’ve experimented long enough now to give an honest opinion of what I’ve been doing. There are two major changes I’ve made over the past few months – both of which go against the way many bloggers eat.
1. Eating three times per day instead of 5-7
When I first got into weight lifting, I worked with a bodybuilding coach who had me eating seven meals on training days and five meals on rest days. I saw great results from switching to this style of eating, but in hindsight it was the changed nature of my meals (increasing my protein intake and decreasing my carbs) rather than the mini meal concept itself that led to fat loss and muscle gain.
When I switched to a Paleo style of eating, I initially cut back to four meals per day. Because I work out in the mornings, I couldn’t fathom waiting such a long time between lunch and dinner with no snack in between.
I remember reading about Juliet’s journey to eating fewer meals and thinking she was crazy for not having any snacks during the day. I’ve learnt many things from this woman – one of which is that my body will not spontaneously combust if I wait 6-7 hours between meals!
Over time, I pared my meals back to three per day, and sometimes only two on rest days. I love this way of eating. I’m not constantly watching the clock, waiting for my next meal. I have huge portions that actually satisfy me, rather than pathetic servings that barely hold me over for an hour.
At first, it wasn’t easy to make the switch. I believed all that mumbo jumbo about mini meals speeding up your metabolism – which has thankfully been disproven – and worried I’d get fat or wouldn’t have enough energy for my workouts. Doing this experiment (combined with my carb backloading experiences) made me realise that it is not the timing of my meals that matter, but my overall caloric intake.
I love being able to leave the house without having to carry around tupperware containers. I can eat at restaurants without worrying about portion sizes. I can eat until I’m stuffed and know it has absolutely no detrimental effect on my physique.
One final benefit, which is also related to point two below, is that I rarely feel hungry. Despite the fact that I’m currently dieting, most days I don’t feel hungry (except for days I do dance classes and don’t eat right away – then I’m a ravenous monster!).
Without getting too scientific, this is caused by the hormone ghrelin. You see, the more you eat, the more ghrelin your body produces. Ghrelin tells your body that you are hungry. This is why many people never feel satisfied by eating mini meals, because they never truly feed themselves enough. This can lead to overeating and fat gain.
All that being said, there is a reason the mini-meals approach is popular and why I still recommend it to the majority of my clients. When most people eat just three times per day, they become overly hungry and binge on whatever food is available – which is often not the healthiest choice. I’m confident in my own eating patterns to know that I will not go crazy at meal times.
2. Fats > carbohydrates
I never, ever thought I would prefer to have fats instead of carbs. I used to read other bloggers’ experiences of switching to Paleo and think they were crazy for having just protein and fats all day long. I have long been a proponent of the benefits of carbs (and still am!) and thought anything less than 100 grams of net carbs per day was detrimental. Oatmeal, brown rice and bread were the star attractions of my meals – why on earth would I want to give them up?
When I switched to Paleo, I naturally reduced my carbohydrate intake as there is only so much sweet potato I can handle! I was still hitting around 100g a day between potato, fruit and other veggies with all three of my meals contained carbs.
Then a funny thing happened. I gradually started to wean myself off carbs. It wasn’t intentional, and I wasn’t trying to diet. I just didn’t enjoy the taste and effect of carbs anymore. I first cut carbs from breakfast and then from dinner. When offered the choice between a sweet potato or a coconut milk curry, I’d pick the latter.
When my fat intake is high (80-90g per day, on average), I have no cravings for carbs at all. I never feel tired or hungry, because fat keeps me satisfied. It does make diet manipulation that little bit harder (as carbs are usually the first thing you alter) but it’s worth it to feel this good all of the time.
How many meals do you eat per day? Do you prefer fat or carbs?