So, How Often Do You Really Need To Eat?
By Sierra Nielsen
We now have more access to nutritional information than ever before, yet we still can’t seem to figure out the first, most basic question when it comes to constructing a healthy meal plan. How many meals should you be eating and how often?
Well the good news is, there isn’t just one answer! While fitness experts have long stood by the theory that you need to eat every 2.5-3 hours in order to properly nourish your body and keep your metabolism up, there has been a lot of recent research proving that’s not necessary.
You can finally set aside that unnecessary stress of trying to fit in a rigid meal plan that simply does not work with your schedule. It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to eat 3 times a day or 6. All that really matters is WHAT you are eating and making sure you are getting enough calories in proper macronutrient ratios. As long as you are sticking to a balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits (1-2 servings a day), vegetables and healthy carbs and fats, I promise you will be successful!
The one thing that IS really important when it comes to meal timing is your pre and post-workout nutrition. This is when your body is most in need of certain nutrients and timing is key in order to maximize the benefits of all your hard work in the gym. Bottom line - your body and muscles need fuel!
An hour or so before heading to the gym, make sure to properly fuel up. Depending on your body, you may be okay to eat from a couple hours up to 30 minutes prior to your workout. This time of day in particular, carbs are your friend. Carbs = energy. When we eat carbs, we break them down into glucose which enters our muscle cells and gives us fuel for our workouts. Apples, oatmeal and sweet potatoes are good examples of healthy carbs. It’s also a good idea to eat protein pre-workout such as greek yogurt, turkey, chicken, eggs or a protein smoothie.
Post-workout, it’s important to refuel as soon as you can. If you aren’t able to have a full meal right away, at least have a snack within 30 minutes that includes healthy carbs and protein. It’s not only important to replenish the glycogen that’s been depleted during your workout but also to fuel your body with protein in order to help your muscles heal and aid in speedy recovery. Good examples of a post-workout snack or meal include a mixed berry protein smoothie, omelet with avocado, ½ cup oatmeal, or salmon and a small sweet potato.
My most important piece of advice is that nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all thing. Everyone’s body is different and will have different needs, but the beauty of it all is that YOU are in control.