5 reasons why snacking between meals is bad for your health and is making you fat

Hello from India! Apologises Ive been quiet here on the blog but Ive been living in the jungle and wifi connection haven't been easy. Although, we have now changed hotels and gone into the city. During this trip there is a lot of food and wine, more than usual. Trying to keeping my weight and shape is always a bit harder when you're on holiday, but not impossible. Im still training, not as much as I normally would, but there is one thing that I try to stick to, and thats not snacking in between meals.

Snacks have come widely popular in the last decade and we now have an incredible selection of snacks to consume between meals. In fact, 57% of the UK population skip meals and eat a snack instead, and 96% eat snacks between meals.

We are also now more obese, suffer from diabetes 2 and many other health conditions. Whereas when your grandparents lived, obesity and diabetes 2 was pretty much unheard of.

Remember back in the day we didn’t have the snacks we have today. You were told to eat your meal as there will be hours until the next meal. Most of us had 3 meals a day, some maybe 4. But today we eat breakfast, then a snack, lunch, then a snack, and maybe another snack, then dinner. Some of us might even have another wee snack after dinner. That’s 5-6 meals a day. Now, we have been told eating smaller meals often is better for our weight and health. I used to do bodybuilding and ate that way for a long time, and yes, I was slim and fit. But I didn’t snack on protein bars or ate sugar, or simple carbs, which is usually what our snacks contain. Even if its gluten free, dairy free, a protein bar, vegan, sugar-free etc. It's usually very high in carbohydrates alone.

I believe snacking is bad for our digestive system and can lead to weight gain. Actually, I don’t only believe it is backed up by science. And as I mentioned earlier, we now snack all the time and we are sicker. Back in the day, we didn’t snack and we were healthier. It is, of course, many other reasons why today’s society is fat and suffers from many health conditions. But I think its highly correlated to our habits of snacking and let me explain why snacking isn’t good for your health and weight:

Let’s be honest, snacks are tasty. It's good if you’re not feeling very hungry and just want something small. Snacks as we know them, it can be a coffee (with milk), energy or snack bars, fruit, a muffin and so on. We snack because we are bored, you crave something or because we are “peckish” or just fancy something.

Now, why is snacking bad?

1. Digestion takes time

Complete digestion takes around 6 hours. So, when you eat snacks you will disrupt this process and the body needs to restart the whole process. You have to remember that for your brain doesn’t know the difference between a little snack and a meal. Every time you put food into your body your brain classifies it as a normal meal and have to start the whole digestion process. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a café latte or an energy bar. They both consume calories.

2. It's poor in micronutrients

Snacks are normally just macronutrients, usually high sugar content and do not contain a lot of micronutrients which are all the vitamins and minerals. Meaning it will only raise your blood sugar levels and spike your insulin levels.

3. It raises your blood sugar and insulin levels

It might make you even hungrier later – meaning you will end up eating more calories. This is correlated with the release of insulin. Insulin work by transporting glucose into your cells. When this is happening, fat burning is turned off. If you have insulin in your bloodstream and no glucose, you will crave more carbohydrates.

4. Snacks will most likely be stored as fat

When your body cannot absorb or utilise food it will be stored as fat. As well we tend to eat more when we snack, resulting in higher calorie intake.

5. Science shows that fewer meals are better for optimal health

Fever larger meals are better for your weight and health. A 24 weeks study done in 2014 showed that eating only 2 meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective for weight loss and improved health indicators.

The study consisted of 219 participants. 54 of the participants was diagnosed with diabetes type 2. The first 12 weeks the group ate 3 meals with 3 smaller snacks in between, followed by the next 12 weeks with only 2 meals per day, eating between 12.00-16.00.

Their results showed that when the group only ate 2 meals a day consumed more calories. But their BMI reduced, insulin sensitivity improved and all health indicators such as fasting plasma glucose, C-peptide and glucagon.

Periods of fasting between meals may be even more important than the composition of the diet. In one experimental study, the timing of meals led to increased insulin sensitivity and decreased body weight in spite of the high-fat content of the consumed diet. The distribution of the meals is another important factor. Eating meals later in the day may also adversely influence the success of a weight loss therapy. This difference in weight loss success was not explained by differences in caloric intake, macronutrient distribution or energy expenditure.

This study is basically the same as intermittent fasting. You have an eating window usually between 4-8 hours, and you fast (do not consume anything that includes calories) for 20-16 hours. This study had an eating window from 12.00-16.00. Intermittent fasting is a very popular and powerful weight loss method. Many people, myself included, swear by this way of eating as its nearly guaranteed results. For both health and weight.

Final words

Skip the snacks and eat big nutritious meals. Of course, if then hunger creeps in and there is a long time to dinner, eat some fruit or vegetables. A glass of water or tea is good to try out first as sometimes we don’t know the difference between dehydration and hunger. And if you’re going to the cinema or are having a movie night, yes enjoy the snacks! But on a day to day basis, think of your health and weight.