There are a number of reasons that a person will have a meal or snack.
- To curb hunger.
- In response to an emotion/craving.
- A love of food!
- To meet a social need.
Now none of the above are negative, I’m sure everyone has at some point eaten because of each reason mentioned. But in the context of fitness we want to associate the reason we eat with a really positive perspective.
- To get nutrition into our body!
By looking at food/meals/snacks in this perspective, we can facilitate our fitness goals efficiently.
With that in mind, lets define the difference between a meal and a snack.
A MEAL is an opportunity to get a bulk of nutrition into our body.
A SNACK is an opportunity to ‘top up’ the nutrition we are putting into our body.
Our aim is to get as much nutrition (Protein, Fat, Carb, Vitamins and Minerals) into our body WHILST hitting our fitness goal.
By not falling short on nutrition, we get enough protein to repair and build lean muscle, enough carbohydrate to provide us with energy and enough fat to help with hormone production and vitamin absorption. This results in a better feeling, functioning and looking body than simply cutting calories for fat loss or adding calories for muscle gain.
So how many meals/snacks should you have?
There is no set answer. The two things to consider are
1.) How many opportunities do you have to eat a meal or snack in a given day? (Consider time, preparation and practicality when choosing between a meal or snack)
2.) How are you going to separate your nutrition amongst those opportunities?
Ideally, you want to have as many meals as you can, as this will keep hunger at bay, and can make meals more manageable in terms of portion size and getting in set amounts of nutrition. However, consider that each meal may require preparation and possibly cost.
This means that your unique lifestyle will produce unique opportunities. Just remember to add/reduce meals/snacks one at a time and build a habit over the course of 2 weeks before making another change. Taking on too much change at once often results in unsustainable results.