A recent debate questions whether we should eat three meals a day or five to six meals a day for optimum health and fitness. Nutritional experts are divided about this, but all of them agree that skipping meals is detrimental to overall fitness success.Individual metabolism seems to be the key in determining how many meals a day to eat. However, if you eat only two to three meals a day you are probably not making your metabolism work as hard as it is supposed to. You may feel tired with a loss of energy and wind up turning toward snacks, which may not be as carefully chosen as an actual meal. With five to six meals a day, you have more opportunities to plan to eat correctly as opposed to snacking on junk food.Deciding to eat 5 or 6 meals a day gives you the opportunity to think about what you are eating and plan meals that include the four food groups. The portions you serve should equal the size of your heart, which is approximately the size of your fist. Exercising portion control and spreading your meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism working properly, giving you plenty of energy. Also, smaller portions help you to avoid overeating and do not make you as sluggish as eating a huge meal. Having several meals during the day gives you the opportunity to add more variety to your diet, as well as avoid pangs of hunger from going too long without eating.The ADA suggests that you ask yourself three questions when deciding how and when to eat:- Am I hungry? If you are not, wait 20 minutes.- When was the last time I ate? Meals should usually be about three hours apart.- Could a small snack tide me over until my next meal? Of course, fruit and veggies are preferred choices for snacks in between meals.In summary about the debate regarding three meals a day versus six, Gary Schwartz (researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine) states, “There’s no strong data supporting either as being being more effective. Clearly, there is an emphasis on reducing caloric intake overall, whether it be by decreasing meal size and/or decreasing meal frequency.”You can develop a truly effective individual fitness plan by counting calories, exercising regularly and carefully monitoring how your metabolism reacts to the number of meals you eat daily.
How does one measure health? It depends on who you ask. A physician may measure health in terms of lab values – cholesterol, blood sugar and so on. A personal trainer might tell you that your body fat percentage is the best indicator of good health. You might base it on what the scale tells you or how your clothes fit.I’m a big believer in monitoring all of these things and then some. Seems like a big job, but really it only takes a few minutes to do each one, involves inexpensive equipment or can be a regular part of a visit to your physician. I call them “The Big Ten Health and Fitness Measures.”
BMI (Body Mass Index)
Resting and target heart rates
Glucose & cholesterol
Why keep track of all these things? First, because there isn’t one single good way to define what makes a person healthy or fit. For instance, just because you are at a healthy weight, does not mean that you don’t have high cholesterol. Also, it can be discouraging to use just one method. You may find yourself in a situation where even though you did not lose any weight in a given week, you may have lost inches.Monitoring several indicators of health and fitness helps you to get a well-rounded picture of your entire self. We do not judge our children in just one subject at school right? And just because the child does poorly in math does not mean he won’t excel at other subjects. And just because you have not lost any weight on the scale does not mean that your waist isn’t getting smaller.Secondly, we have all heard the adage, “a problem defined is 95% solved.” Knowing your target ranges for health indicators like weight, body fat and BMI can help you to define what you need to work on. You avoid unnecessary changes and difficulties by having the correct information. For instance, someone with good cholesterol levels has no need for an ultra-low fat diet.Third, it serves as a point of inspiration to see how far you have come. Since the changes you are making will be small and incremental, it may be discouraging at times not to see overt progress. However, by keeping track of a variety of fitness indicators, it is easier to see, in black and white, all of the progress you are making.