Snacking can be a helpful tool for maintaining a healthy metabolism. Eating a snack every three hours keeps the metabolism revved up, burning more energy and fat. However, portion control is essential. Snacking can very easily add up on top of daily meals, pushing you past your optimal macronutrient number quota. If you are someone who eats smaller, portioned meals, having a snack between meals may be necessary and help to keep you satisfied, without compromising weight and health goals. This snack helps to stabilize blood sugar, allowing for better focus, energy and overall feeling of wellbeing.
It may be difficult to determine how often or what quantity of snacks to consume. In order to further clarify these details, ask your local trainer or dietitian to assess the quality and quantity of your diet, helping to ensure that these snacks aid in achieving goals instead of potentially inhibiting them.
In order to optimize health status and energy levels, the quality of snacks is important. Choose balanced snacks that provide you with anywhere from 100-300 kcal. Balanced snacks carbs, fat, and protein. Learn more about what these macronutrients are here. Some balanced options include nuts and string cheese, crackers and peanut butter, a wholesome nutrition bar, celery and cream cheese and Greek yogurt with berries. Choose snacks that you enjoy and that you look forward to consuming. This will make snacking more fun, something that you look forward to, and a habit that will be easier to maintain in the long run.
Snacking may not be beneficial to your goals when you eat when you’re not actually hungry, you eat too soon after a meal (thus preventing the body from using foods consumed for energy and storing excess calories as fat), or you eat a large snack portion. Often times people find that they may snack for reasons other than hunger, i.e. boredom, high/low emotions, when in social settings or that it may be difficult to stop eating once they start. If this is you, snacking may be inhibiting overall progress and may lead to undesired weight gain. The optimal time between meals and quantity/portion size of your snack is highly personal. It depends on your body composition, physical activity, being in tune with hunger and fullness cues and ultimately the impact your snacking habits make on your daily activities and weight. However, it is also important to note that each of these characteristics is highly individualized.
Overall, the reason why snacking is so controversial is due to the individualized nature of when snacking can be beneficial and when it can be harmful in relation to accomplishing health and performance goals.
Snacking would typically benefit someone who eats several small, portioned meals throughout the day in order to ensure that the individual is consuming enough calories. This type of eating pattern, i.e. eating something small and balanced every few hours, is incredibly beneficial for the metabolism and may aid in long-term balanced eating habits. However, this is not the norm as many individuals prefer to have three larger meals per day.
If you are someone who regularly has several larger meals per day, maintains their weight or has been gaining weight, and is looking to lose weight, additional snacks may not aid in the goal of weight loss. Instead, omitting snacks or decreasing the portion and/or caloric density of meals, which may eventually allow for incorporation of snacks in the future, may further aid in weight loss goals. For information about eating for weight loss, download our guide here.
Overall, the main takeaway when it comes to snacking is that it can benefit some while not benefitting others. You need to to assess the composition of your diet, frequency of eating, weight trend and overall goals in order to determine if snacking will benefit you. If you need further assistance in doing this type of diet assessment, we recommend contacting your local healthcare professional who can aid you with what is best for you.
- Many people are confused about the helpful or harmful nature of snacking.
- Snacking can be beneficial if done mindfully, and if it is appropriate for daily eating habits.
- Snacking can be harmful if done unnecessarily or if done in excess.
- In order to determine if snacking would benefit your health and fitness goals, consider receiving the guidance of a health/fitness professional.