Does your body really need to be fed every couple of hours to avoid blood sugar crashes?
Once upon a time there was this common thought that eating frequent, small meals throughout the day would help you manage your blood sugar levels hence help you lose weight. This has been said to be an especially effective tactic for those already suffering from blood sugar imbalances. But, does your body really need to be fed every couple of hours?
What happens when the body is hungry?
What happens when you experience hunger? Feelings of hunger and satiation are both controlled by our brain and endocrine system; our endocrine system is what releases hormones throughout our body. When we eat food – enough to feel satisfied – one of these hormones, insulin, is released by the pancreas. Increased insulin levels lead to the release of another hormone, called leptin. Leptin is what travels to the brain to tell it that we’re not hungry anymore; leptin is also known as the “satiety hormone”.
However, the hormones don’t travel to the brain instantaneously; it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety. After our appetite has been “shut off”, the pancreas stops producing insulin and our insulin levels subsequently drop. Once this happens, leptin starts burning fat and converting it to energy.
Conventional thought has been that snacking between meals is a great way to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Blood sugar stability is important for your overall health, but especially for weight loss, because dips in blood sugar send your body into a perceived starvation mode, where it converts energy from lean muscle instead of fat. For efficiency purposes and good health, the goal is to convert energy from fat as much as possible. Low blood sugar also leaves you feeling lethargic and inattentive.
Why eating throughout the day may not be your best choice.
What we’re discovering now is that eating throughout the day may not be the best way to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. By eating constantly, our bodies don’t have a chance to go through the typical processes of increasing and decreasing hormone levels. Instead, insulin levels remain high because there isn’t enough time to allow for a decrease, before it’s time to eat again.
By consistently having high(er) insulin levels, it’s thought that we become insulin-resistant. Since insulin is responsible for our energy levels, when our bodies don’t respond to insulin anymore we aren’t optimizing our energy storage. What this means is that we’re not burning fat as effectively as we could, which corresponds to our weight. This condition is known as hyperinsulinism.
What can you do to prevent crazy hyperinsulinism?
So, what can we do to prevent hyperinsulinism and keep our insulin levels on a more optimal schedule? To begin with, start spreading out how often you eat. At first, this may prove difficult, especially if you’ve become accustomed to eating frequently. But eventually it will become easier to go longer periods without feeling like you’re starved for food. You’ll get to a point where eating three meals a day is commonplace and satisfactory.
In addition to timing your meals appropriately, there are also a number of food choices you can make to work towards better regulating your insulin levels. Watching your sugar consumption will play a huge factor in insulin regulation. Sugar increases insulin production quite rapidly; as such, it should be limited wherever possible.
References available upon request