Wednesday, 5 October 2011

To snack or not to snack

Yesterdays blog on avoiding blood sugar dips also ties in nicely with my current experiment to cut back on the snacks.

By combining slow digesting carbs, protein and fibre in every meal you're not just avoiding glazing ocer - by delaying a blood sugar low you're also delaying when you'll next feel hungry. As a result you might not find yourself reaching for a mid morning biscuit or afternoon chocolate bar.

If you get your meals properly balanced, and your pancreas is working as it should, then you should be going 4-5 hours between meals before your appetite kicks in.

So far my no snack experiment hasn't been entirely successful - I've had to snack once or twice each day, but I'm lasting longer between meals than previously and I've needed a lot less to tie me over to the next meal - just a few raw almonds.

That's not to say I'm anti-snacking - sometimes a substantial but healthy snack is just what your body needs. However if you're snacking when you're not hungry, or picking at food all day rather than eating proper meals then you need to break those habits.

Use your appetite as a guide and also be mindful that there are also occasions when you definitely should be snacking:

- under high stress. High stress disregulates your blood sugar levels so you're more likely to need something to keep you going between meals. Also stress suppresses digestion so smaller more frequent meals can be easier on the system.

- if you've got a long day. If most of us early starters ate our main meals every 5 hours dinner would be at 5pm! So a late afternoon snack is pretty much essential. It is also a good idea before a long commute home - a blood sugar low is not what you need on a packed stuffy tube.

- if you're a gym bunny or training at a serious level - eating protein and carbs after exercise is a must for recovery so have a snack if you're not about to have a meal. If you're burning off serious calories you'll also probably struggle to fit your intake into three meals and if you're trying to maximise performance/muscle gain then eating mini meals every three hours is one of the most effective strategies.


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