As you’ve probably noticed, we love busting health and nutrition myths here at TNN. In fact, our 2017 seminar “Food myths, Real Food & Transforming Your Metabolism’ was so popular that we made it available to download here. We’ve busted the “you need to eat every two hours to speed up your metabolism” myth and taught you how to optimize your metabolism with how to build your plate, meal timing and fasting strategies. You no longer need to eat five or more times per day but what about our conventional breakfast, lunch and dinner? Today we explore the question: Do I need three meals per day? Let’s dive in.
Did you guess that my answer would be no? Here are my top reasons why you simply don’t (always) need three meals per day:
1. From an evolutionary perspective, food supply was always in a state of flux. Now, we have food available at our beck and call and we’ve lost our ability to identify true hunger signals and to eat intuitively. It’s actually healthy to be hungry and it’s an art to only ever be 80% full at the end of a meal.
2. Breakfast literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night, and while it is usually defined as a morning meal, this is largely due to convention and habit. You can break your fast at 1pm and it can still be referred to as breakfast. In fact, if you’re otherwise choosing an Up & Go and/or eating in the car or on the go, you’re much better off waiting until a time where you can implement good food behaviours, like being in a parasympathetic state and sitting down to chew (rather than inhale) your food*.
3. There are many health benefits of fasting and science currently indicates that a 16:8 schedule is one of the best strategies. Eating within an 8-hour window means there simply isn’t time for three well formulated meals, so it makes sense that on your 16:8 days your meal frequency will be lower. As I always say, “your meal frequency is relative to your eating window”. A MCT Coffee and two meals can definitely be sufficient. There’s no need fast every day (although you can if it works for you) and especially if you are new to fasting, we recommend that two days per week is adequate to begin.
4. When you build your plate with non-starchy vegetables, quality protein and healthy fats, the nutrient density of each meal is significantly greater than that of a standard, Western plate. A focus on food quality means it is possible (for most people) to obtain all of the required nutrients in two main meals. You will have to aim for more vegetables than usual, but plants should be the hero of most, if not all, of your meals.
5. The addition of healthy fats is “bang for your buck”. Two tablespoons is what we refer to as one portion of healthy fats and is approximately 250 calories, with only a small volume of food to consume. Not only does the addition of healthy fats contribute to satiety and the nutrient density of your meals, they ensure you are not under-eating from a calorie perspective. For example, a female consuming 1500-1600 calories per day could consume: MCT Coffee (200 calories), meal 1 (650-700 calories) e.g. 2-3 cups of non-starchy vegetables, 120g protein and 1-1.5 portions healthy fats and meal 2 (650-700 calories) e.g. 2-3 cups of non-starchy vegetables, 120g protein and 1-1.5 portion healthy fats. A male consuming 2100-2300 calories per day could consume: MCT Coffee (300 calories), meal 1 (900-1000 calories) e.g. 2-3 cups of non-starchy vegetables, 150g protein and 2 portions healthy fats and meal 2 (900-1000 calories) e.g. 2-3 cups of non-starchy vegetables, 150g protein and 2 portions healthy fats.
6. Decreased meal frequency allows for digestive ease and it is one of the most basic gut health strategies to allow for adequate rest for the digestive system. As digestion is a high energy requiring process, it is also common to feel sluggish after a meal, if your gut health is sub-optimal. This can easily be resolved with a personalised gut health protocol, but in the short term, please start by decreasing your meal frequency before looking for that magic pill in a bottle.
* If you’re falling off your chair at the thought of not eating first thing, know that you have trained your body to need food at this time because you have always eaten at this time. Additionally, it is likely that you have developed a sugar burning metabolism, and that you need carbohydrates to manage your blood sugar. Let us help you transform your metabolism and it really will change your life. Book your complimentary 15-minute consultation here.