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Fitness Nutrition Forums

How Many Times a Day Should You Eat?

We all want the right answer when it comes to weight loss and health — but is how often you eat a factor?

A balanced, healthy diet should contain carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, unsaturated fats and whole-grains and legumes are the go-to choices. But, how often do you need to eat during the day to get the most from your balanced diet? Well, it depends.

What the Experts are Saying

For the average person, eating three large meals or four to six smaller meals doesn't make a huge difference. Most don't advise eating less than three meals per day — so two is out. For dietitians and nutritionists, it's the quality of your food rather than how much you eat at a time. You can live a healthy life, and reach a healthy body weight with any of the choices.

What Are Your Goals?

If you have fitness or health goals to accomplish, that may affect how often you choose to eat. If you are trying to lose weight, eating smaller meals may make you feel as if you are eating a lot. That can trick your brain and help you lose weight. If you are an athlete — pro or amateur — or even an avid exerciser, three meals a day may not cut it. You may need to add in pre- and post-workout meals/snacks in order to fuel your body and aid in recovery. Marathoners, half-marathoners, and triathletes fuel even during training.

What's Your Schedule?

A typical day for most people includes getting up, going to work all day, and then home or out in the evening. A set schedule like this may lend itself to eating three times per day on a regular basis: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Those that stay home with the kids may eat smaller meals/snacks more frequently as they work around school drop-offs/pick-ups, activities and the day-to-day running of the house. Look at your schedule, and figure out what works for you.

What are your Needs?

Eating three times a day may work for many people. However, you have to make sure you are eating enough without overeating — no matter how many times per day you eat. If you overeat, you can be left feeling lethargic. It's hard to keep up with your obligations if you have no energy. Similarly, if you don't eat enough or often enough, your blood sugar can drop. This can leave you feeling weak and even dizzy. Diseases such as diabetes may also impact how often you eat, as well as what foods. Talk to your doctor and dietitian regarding specific health concerns.

The bottom line is you need nutrition that fuels your body, improves your health and helps you accomplish the things you want. Eating three to six times per day is secondary to getting the proper balance of nutrients.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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