How Often To Eat On A Raw Food Diet
How often to eat on any diet is a contentious subject these days, but mostly for no good reason.
Two meals a day? The standard three? How about six or seven small meals?
What's the best meal frequency for firing up your metabolism and losing weight?
Unfortunately, a large amount of what I like to call, "bro science," the diet and muscle building advice you get from both professional personal trainers, your buddies down at the gym, and your overweight friends at the office has infiltrated the discourse, causing a lot of confusion.
If you flip open a magazine or ask around, you'll probably hear that skipping meals or fasting is a surefire way to slow down your metabolism. The general advice is to eat numerous small meals spaced throughout the day, which, rumor has it, will fire up your metabolism somehow and get you to burn more fat and/or calories.
My experience is that the people espousing these ideas haven't researched the topic. So is there any truth to what they say?
How Often To Eat: What The Science Says
For all its popularity, the idea that fasting or less frequent meals leads to a slower metabolic rate, and that more numerous meals speeds things up, has little scientific basis.
To start off, let's look for the extreme and find people who aren't eating much, or aren't eating for long periods of time, and see what it does to their metabolism.
If you have people eat nothing for three days (72 hours), their metabolic rate does not slow down (1).
But what about the rumors that long-term erratic eating will slow down your metabolism? When researchers put a group on a long-term alternate day fast (eating for 24 hours, then fasting for 24 hours) for 22 days, their metabolic rate stayed the same (2).
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OK, so if fasting doesn't decrease your metabolic rate, will very frequent meals speed it up?
Nope again. Several studies have found that those skipping breakfast do not have a slower metabolic rate than those who don't. A separate comparison of those eating two meals a day with those eating seven meals a day showed no calorie-burning differences between them (3, 4).
How Often To Eat On A Raw Diet
Your meal frequency and the amount you eat at any given sitting has no impact on your metabolism, so from a weight loss or maintenance perspective the topic isn't all that important.
If you want to lose weight, adopt a smart plan to do so and forget the gimmicks like meal frequency adjustment.
If you're eating a raw food diet, though, there are several other important factors to consider when deciding how often to eat.
The Stomach Volume Adjustment
One of the issues many new raw foodists have to face is that their stomachs' ability to stretch have atrophied after a lifetime of eating very high calorie, very low volume unhealthy foods.
A 100 grams of McDonald's hamburger contains 252 calories, for instance, while a 100 grams of peaches contains only 39 calories.
This means that in order to avoid eating too little and suffering from unwanted weight loss and cravings on a raw diet, you need to take in a greater volume of food.
But because of the atrophied state of their stomachs, they find the increased volume hard to accommodate.
This problem can be overcome by eating a few more bites, or a few more pieces of fruit at every meal. You'll be impressed with how quickly you can adapt to larger meals by doing this.
But in the short term, it may be necessary to eat more meals every day to resist cravings and stay on track.
Although I personally think fewer meals make more sense for me, it's perfectly fine to eat more frequently if you feel the need. The key is to take in enough calories. How you get those calories is secondary.
The Physical Activity Question
The main reason why my preference is to eat fewer large meals rather than more frequent small meals is that I'm a very physically active guy.
Every try running 10 miles with a full stomach?
It's not pleasant, you're likely to get cramps, and it's not conducive to top performance.
Generally, I like to eat my last meal at least two hours before I start a physically-demanding activity. Ideally, I like to exercise first thing in the morning before I eat anything at all, which delays my first meal.
If I was to eat six meals a day, there would pretty much be no time in which my stomach would be completely empty and ready for activity.
How Often To Eat: What Andrew Does
I've long found that skipping breakfast and eating two very large meals of water rich fruit per day works best for me, and I've lost a lot of weight with this technique, which I talk about in Raw Food Weight Loss And Vitality.
I'll be the first to admit that the main benefits are sleep and mental clarity improvements rather than enhanced metabolic rate, however.
So what does a day for me actually look like?
It's going to depend heavily on what my schedule is and how physically active I plan to be. My diet fits my life, not the other way around.
If my schedule allows it and I'm not planning to exercise strenuously for more than an hour, then I usually will do something like this:
|Late Morning Or Early Afternoon
|11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
|5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Generally, any harder-to-digest vegetables, fatty fruits, or nuts and seeds will be consumed in my second dinner course because I'm winding down for the night and don't mind a bit of extra digestive load.
If I'm going to be doing a lot of exercise, I have no choice but to add in a third, or on rare occasions, event a fourth meal to accommodate the extra caloric requirements. These will be moved around as needed so my stomach is relatively empty.
How Often To Eat: Following Up
Your meal frequency is an area where you can experiment to find what best works for you. It doesn't really matter that much as long as it fits your life and activity level.
See some examples of how often to eat on a raw food diet.
Want to lose some weight? Check out Raw Food Weight Loss And Vitality.
Learn what foods are healthy and which are harmful.
How Often To Eat: Sources
1) Webber J, Macdonald IA, The cardiovascular, metabolic and hormonal changes accompanying acute starvation in men and women. British journal of nutrition 1994; 71:437-447
2) Heilbronn LK, et al. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005; 81:69-73
3) Verboeket-Van De Venne WPHG, et al. Effect of the pattern of food intake on human energy metabolism. British Journal of Nutrition 1993; 70:103-115 11
4) Bellisle F, et al. Meal Frequency and energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition 1997;, 77: (Suppl. 1) s57-s70
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