Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 470- Nutrition Bite

Is Six Small Meals better than Three?

Six small meals per day has become a very popular trend in the weight loss world. Six meals is advocated by fitness professionals, seen in the media, and practiced by thousands of individuals.  Six small meals is also a controversial topic among experts. Some experts mention that six small meals are hard on the digestive system while others mention how it positively affects the metabolic rate. Is six really better than three? The remainder of the paper will discuss the positive and negative consequences of six small meals, and then you can decide.

I was intrigued with the topic after completing a recent biochemistry course. We had a lecture on the biochemical pathways in regard to nutrition and exercise. We learned that our bodies use glucose storages within one hour of eating, and glycogen stores are used 3.4 to 6.8 hours between meals. We can store unlimited fats and live off fat for about 68 days. Then, the idea of six small meals intrigued me. What happens biochemically if we eat six small meals? Do we burn fat? I started researching the topic and found it to be quite controversial.

Advocates of six small meals discuss the health implications of increasing our metabolic rate by eating frequently, resulting in weight loss. If we feed the body at regular intervals, a signal is sent to the body not to store extra calories.  Also, research has shown that small meals can lower cholesterol and triacglycerol levels, which is basically lowering unhealthy fats.  Eating frequently controls your appetite; whereas, eating infrequently results in binge eating or overeating. Six small meals per day instead of three helps you feel more satisfied.  Also, six small meals help ensure a balanced diet of all three macronutrients of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Also, you are balancing the micronutrients of vitamins and minerals.  Overall, advocates mention how it lowers cholesterol levels and lowers risk for cardiovascular disease.

Opponents of six small meals mention that eating a few small meals doesn’t help with weight loss because you end up overeating. It is also hard on the digestive system when you eat too frequently. The other issue is your insulin levels are always high, leading to insulin-resistance or Type II Diabetes.  Insulin signals indicate that glucose is in the blood, and glucagon signals indicate that glucose is not in the blood. Atkin’s diet manipulates these signals, telling your body that glucose is not present. Thus, they are burning glycogen and fat stores instead of burning glucose that results in the formation of ketone bodies.  Thus, eating carbohydrates frequently will activate the insulin signal. Type II Diabetes can result from overeating and the insulin signal no longer functions properly. Obesity and Type II Diabetes are usually correlated with one another. Overeating results in more glucose stored as glycogen. Once glycogen stores have been exhausted, glucose is converted to fat.

Six small meals per day revs up the digestive system. You are never giving you digestive system a break or a rest. Experts mention the human stomach takes a total of four to five hours to digest a meal and sometimes longer, depending on what is eaten. Further, experts feel that frequent eating has caused an increase in digestive disorders such as acid reflux disease, low stomach acid, heart burn, and Irritable Bowl Syndrome.  Maybe, frequent small meals can “wear out” you digestive track, causing gastrointestinal and digestive disorders.

Does eating six small meals really help us? It boils down to caloric input and caloric output. Yes, there may be consequences and benefits of eating six small meals. When all is said and done, a person needs to burn more total calories at the end of the day and eat fewer calories at the end of the day. The process is a challenge when we live in a fast-pace society and eat on-the-go. We eat at fast food establishments where everything is super-sized, and portions are large. We go to work and sit, and then we go home and watch the tube. A sedentary lifestyle with overeating causes weight gain. We can control weight gain with smaller portion sizes and aerobic exercise. Metabolically, we eat less to utilize the immediate glucose, less glycogen is stored, and breaking down fat will occur. If we aerobically exercise, we speed up the process.  Oxygen is available for the metabolic pathways to burn fat. The metabolic process is complex, but controlling our weight is simple. The weight loss formula is simple-- less caloric input and more caloric output.

 -Written by the Sugar Preacher

1 comment:

Val said...

I like 6 meals over just regular 3!