Losing and maintaining weight is ultimately all about calories in and calories out. No matter what you eat! That means you have to watch what you’re eating and stick to a schedule, or you’ll lose track of what you’ve put in your mouth.
You should try to fast for 12 hours every day.
Over a 24-hour period, you want a minimum of a 12-hour fast overnight (that’s why it’s called a breakfast!).
So let’s say there are 12 hours a day when you’re fasting, and 12 hours a day when you’re eating. Break that down and you’ll need to eat about every three to four hours. That’s just enough time for breakfast, lunch, ONE snack, and dinner.
I usually eat about 1,800 calories every day, with 3.5 hours between each meal. I have about 400 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch, 200 for a snack (some of my favourite snack ideas are available on my app), and 700 for dinner. I’m perfectly fine on that schedule.
The timing of your meals and snacks has a dramatic effect on your metabolism.
Your metabolism is really just a bunch of hormones that tell your body all sorts of stuff: when to feel hungry and full; when to build, maintain, or break down muscle; where to store fat. The timing of your meals and snacks has a dramatic effect on your metabolism—specifically the levels of the satiety hormone leptin and the hunger hormone ghrelin.
If you’re eating all day long, you’re not freeing up your body to do all the things it needs to do to repair itself, because it’s constantly busy processing food. You’ll feel psychologically hungry because you haven’t sat down for a full meal. And you’ll keep your insulin levels surging, which is definitely not good for your overall health and wellness.
On the flipside, if you skip a meal, your body releases even more hunger hormone. You’ll actually end up making up for it in a big way later on in the day.
Sticking to an eating schedule with three meals and one snack keeps your energy up and your insulin levels stable so you feel satisfied all day.
No, you shouldn’t “graze throughout the day.”
There's simply no science to support grazing. There’s no benefit to keeping your insulin levels surging and making your body process food without a break.
Yet we’re constantly doing it! Our culture is set up that way. Between the bagels and cookies left out at the office, the breakfast meetings, the after-work drinks, and the vending machine, our work and social lives are centred around food. It’s constantly in our environment.
I think a big part of constantly feeling hungry is that a lot of us are eating a lot of crap like processed grains and refined sugar.
If you eat intelligently—which means eating all three macronutrients and a mix of whole grains, fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and clean protein—you should be fine eating every three to four hours and fasting overnight. If you’re not, you probably need to take a look at how you can better balance your macronutrients and calories in each meal.
You can eat your snack whenever you want.
As long as you eat within a 12-hour time frame, there is no perfect timing for your meals. You need to find a schedule that works for you.
If you eat like a saint all day long but dinner comes along and you empty your fridge, I suggest having a snack after breakfast, at around 11 a.m. Then have a big lunch a bit later, around 2 to 3 p.m., and your dinner three to four hours later. Because you’re packing in most of your calories later in the day, you’ll probably eat less at dinner.
Otherwise, if you don’t have an issue with overeating in the evening or it just works better for your schedule, have a snack in the afternoon at around 3 p.m., between lunch and dinner.
There is no wrong answer! Test out different combinations to find what works for you.
Use common sense when picking your snack.
I believe in eating a pretty balanced combination of macronutrients: About 40 per cent carbs, 30 per cent fat, and 30 per cent protein. Don’t get crazy about it. Just eat with common sense, and aim for those ratios at every meal, including snacks.
As for going low-carb, I think everyone is different. Listen to your body and find a way of eating that makes you feel better for longer.
I just had apple, which has carbs and fibre, spread with nut butter, which has protein and healthy fats. I also like Greek yoghurt with berries and a little bit of granola, which gets you whole grains, protein, and fat.
Don’t forget to watch your portions.
I see people who think that if a food is healthy, it’s always good for you. Then they wonder why they’re gaining weight. But think about a bear who eats nothing but good-for-you sh*t like berries, wild salmon, fruits, and veggies. They pack on enough weight to hibernate for months.
That half an avocado you just ate for a snack might have 400 calories, and those extra calories add up. So yeah, even healthy foods aren’t necessarily always good for you. Your snack should be about 20 per cent of your daily calories, give or take.
Finally, don’t mistake that cereal bar that’s on your points plan for a healthy snack. It’s not. It’s a processed diet food, and it’s garbage. It has no nutrient value, it doesn’t have a good blend of macros, and it doesn’t have fibre or healthy fats for good energy. It will just give you a sugar crash in 90 minutes.
And there you have it: Your one-a-day snack turns into two.
As told to Colleen de Bellefonds. This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.