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Our Athlean-XX for Women Nutrition Plan recommends eating 5 – 6 smaller meals per day instead of 2 – 3 large ones. To many women that can sound like a lot, and some might just ignore this recommendation if they’re trying to lose weight. Most women have been told their whole adult lives that weight loss is a simple equation of calories in, calories out. So, we believe that the fewer calories we consume, the more weight we’ll lose. In an attempt to eat as few calories as possible in the course of each day, we commit several errors. We try not to eat anything until lunch. We don’t eat anything after 7:00 p.m. either. Most women end up eating only two real meals per day.
The truth is that these weight loss ‘strategies’ are causing us more harm than good. They’re messing with our weight loss goals and even our digestive health. Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why eating 5 – 6 smaller meals per day is better!
1) Helps Manage Appetite
Eating 5 – 6 smaller meals per day, about 3 hours apart is a major key in keeping tabs on your appetite. If you’re eating healthy whole foods during those small meals, like lean protein (meat, dairy and legumes), fibrous fruits and veggies and slow-burning non-refined carbohydrates (like whole grains instead of refined white flour and sugar), you’ll stay full throughout the day and will be less likely to experience carb cravings and binges. Alternatively, if you eat only twice per day, you may be so ravenous that you over-eat (or eat less healthy foods) and end up eating more overall calories than you would with a 5 – 6 times per day eating plan.
If you’ve ever eaten just coffee and a pastry for breakfast, you’ve likely experienced the mid-morning slump that can send many of us to the vending machine or the break room at work looking for sustenance (often in the form of sugar). Likewise, if you don’t eat much throughout the day and then eat a big lunch, there’s a second afternoon slump that hits, causing us to zombie-walk our way to Starbucks on our afternoon break. Eating too infrequently can cause major spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, whereas eating small, regular meals 5 – 6 times per day keeps blood sugar levels steady. This will help regulate your energy levels throughout the day, and help keep you from giving into sugary cravings.
3) Boosts Metabolism
Here’s perhaps the best way that eating small frequent meals helps with weight loss. Eating more frequently helps stimulate your metabolism, and keeps it from entering its starvation mode response. When you go without eating for several hours at a time, your body’s automatic reaction is to slow its metabolic rate to conserve energy. That’s right….eating infrequently makes your metabolism SLOW DOWN. This is why our Athlean-XX for Women nutrition plan recommends eating breakfast as soon as you wake up, as well as a little something before bed. Since those 8 hours you’re asleep are a long time for your body to go without food energy, it’s important to eat both before bed and when you wake up to keep the metabolism from entering starvation mode.
4) Keeps Hormones In Balance
There are several hormones in our bodies that affect hunger levels, metabolism and weight loss. Let’s look at two few of them: insulin and ghrelin. Reduced meal frequency causes larger insulin spikes when we do eat. This has two nasty effects. First of all, the spikes switch on mechanisms that increase fat storage. Second, the spikes are followed by crashes which cause us to experience strong hunger pangs, and crave sweets. This is a terrible double-edged sword for weight loss! Making matters worse, lack of food in the stomach for many hours at a time causes the stomach to secrete ghrelin, also known as the ‘hunger hormone.’ Ghrelin slows down fat utilization and increases appetite. When the stomach is empty for extended periods of time, it increases our urge to eat and leads us to eat more than we probably need to in one sitting. You can really start to see how all of these bodily mechanisms can add up to create a total shut down in our ability to lose weight.
Eating smaller, frequent meals spaced throughout the day has important effects on our health, too. It helps us digest better – because we’re putting small, manageable quantities of food into the body bit by bit rather than a big food bomb twice per day. It’s easier for our gut to process and absorb vitamins and minerals from our foods when we eat smaller quantities more frequently. In fact, many doctors recommend eating smaller meals more frequently to help patients with digestive conditions like acid reflux.
Eating small, frequent meals is an important ingredient to your weight loss goals and overall health. However just important is WHAT you eat during those meals. The Athlean-XX for Women nutrition and fitness program includes a flexible nutrition plan that will teach you what kinds of foods are the best fuel for your body and will help you get the lean, strong figure you’re going for. The Nutrition Plan is flexible – you can choose to follow our set 90 day plan or pick and choose from our lists of healthy foods to create your own meals. Your 5 – 6 small healthy meals per day will give you the energy you need for our challenging 30 minute circuit strength workouts that’ll help you build lean, sexy muscle and get your heart pumping cardio done in one fell swoop! The workouts are flexible too – for each muscle group there is one home DVD workout AND two more gym workouts for you to choose from. If you’re ready to get your lifestyle makeover started now, we invite you to join us on Team Athlean!