Five small meals per day helps keep your blood sugar in a healthy range, reducing your chances of becoming overweight and developing diabetes. Of course, five meals consisting of mainly rice, potatoes, breads, bagels or cookies is quite unhealthy. Including healthy foods from all the food groups improves your vitality and energy level while decreasing your risk of lifestyle-related diseases.
The caloric content of your five meals should add up to the total calories you need every day. Post-exercise meals should be higher in calories than your last meal of the night. Women need between 16 to 20 calories per pound of body weight per day and men need 17 to 23 calories per pound every day. If you are doing light activities such as walking around 3 mph, cleaning house or playing golf, eat toward the low end of the caloric range. Engaging in highly intense activities such as running, lifting weights and playing soccer means you should eat the highest number of calories according to the caloric range of your sex.
Schedule your meals every two to three hours to enhance the efficacy of eating five small meals per day. Going four hours without consuming a meal causes your blood sugar to begin dropping below your pre-meal blood sugar level. This means cortisol is released to counter the drop in your blood sugar; cortisol promotes the storage of body fat within your abdominal cavity.
Large amounts of carbohydrates are found not only in your grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice and pasta, but also in fruits, peas, corn, carrots, milk and beans. Carbs should make up about 50 to 60 percent of your total daily calories, most of which should come from grains. Each meal should have a minimum of a ½ cup or a one slice serving of grains. Double your servings of grains if you do plenty of endurance training. Include a medium fruit or 1 cup in two of your meals and about 1 cup of vegetables in three of your meals. Carbs are the primary source of energy for your everyday activities, including your workouts.
Protein contains amino acids, molecules necessary to repair, remodel and grow your muscles. Moderately active individuals need about 1 to 1 ½ g of protein every day. If you participate in a strength training or muscle building program, consume 2 g of protein per day. Eat a minimum of 5 ½ oz. of protein every day from lean meats, lean poultry and fatty fish. Include the grams of protein in dairy products as part of your 1 to 2 g of daily protein.
Fats should be about 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. Unsalted nuts and fatty fishy are excellent sources of fat and protein because they lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol. Cook with olive oil as much as possible. Additional fats like butter and oils should be used sparingly in your meals. You may substitute a serving of lean meat in one of your daily meals for one serving or a ¼ cup of unsalted nuts.
- "Personal Trainer Manual"; American Council on Exercise; 1997
- "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning"; Thomas R. Baechle and Roger W. Earle; 2000
- "ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal"; Obesity: America's Growing Epidemic; Shelby Rush, M.D.; November/December 2004
- "ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal"; Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight; Christine Maglione-Garves, et al.; September/October 2005
- "ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal"; Your Clients Are What They Eat: Balancing Weight with Diet Part 1; Gary Miller, Ph.D.; January/February 2005
- My Pyramid: Inside the Food Pyramid