My belief is that we are not meant to eat 3 times a day, which is the general R(x) in most countries. People eat much more than that, as you see the ones near you always having something to put in their mouths, always craving for something. It’s extremely easy to get food these days, with basically 0 effort. I do not want to be a critic but look at the Chawners for example, the fattest British family. They are not employed and they live off the government receiving approximately $20,000.
Again, the purpose is not to criticize but to point out how easy it is to receive food. I don’t wanna say that their morbidly obese status has something to do with the amount of food they eat, but in some part, it has. Currently and as far as I know, there are more obese people than starving people in the world.
Not wanting to derive away from the subject, let me give you some examples why I think it’s no good for us to eat at least 3 times a day and to eat every day. Let’s start with some history.
Enter the Australopiths (a.k.a. Australopithecus). They have been a hominid species living mostly in Africa between 4.2 to 1.5 million years ago.
Judging by their physical aspect, they were pre-hunter gatherer specie. Why, you may ask?
First of all, their upper body size is much more developed (larger) compared to the lower body size. These images (even though they may not 100% reflect the reality of the past) show that their hands were bigger than their feet. You cannot see in these images, but the Australopiths had flat feet, making them less adapted to moving faster and over larger distances.
You may have heard of Lucy, the recently discovered fossil. She was an Australopith female living in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago.
They’ve evolved from earlier primates and they could spend time both in trees and on the ground, constantly reaching for food (hence the size of their hands). But, unlike earlier primates, the Australopiths were upright apes who ate much less fruit. Here’s an exempt from the fascinating work of Daniel Lieberman:
To summarize, australopiths as a whole were gatherers who ate a varied diet that included fruit, but some of them also benefited strongly from digging frequently for tubers, bulbs, and roots. They almost certainly foraged for other fallback plant foods too, including leaves, stems, and seeds, and we can guess that, like chimps and baboons, they regularly enjoyed insects such as termites and grubs, and they must have eaten meat whenever it was possible, probably by scavenging, since being slow and unsteady bipeds likely made them ineffective hunters.
Nothing is for certain with respect to their diet. It was probably that whenever they found food either higher quality or fallback food (as Lieberman likes to call it), they would eat it until they had to move to another location.
This makes me think of this paper and how insulin in the context of early human species could have been a life saving factor, while nowadays it serves a totally different purpose. I would think that the Australopiths and hominid species following them would eat a lot when they had food, causing higher insulin secretion and possibly inducing lipogenesis. Though it would be questionable if they, as gatherers, could eat so many calories.
Things get more interesting as our earlier and more resembling ancestors, the Homo erectus, start appearing in Africa 1.9 million years ago. This species has started migrating cross-continents. They evolved as hunter-gatherers and their physical aspect is different compared to the Australopiths.
The full-arch in their feet, the long Achilles (presumably – because it does not preserve over time) along with their long legs made the entire foot act like a spring, allowing the Erectus to evolve as hunters. Daniel Lieberman gives ample description to these physical traits. Even if the Erectus was able to consume more energy dense foods, they were most likely not involved in the habitual eating (sometimes obsessive) that we are today. This is where the paper on insulin from earlier would help provide a better understanding of the entire concept.
Evolution and eating is an interesting subject and the Paleo community barely scratches the surface of this.
Growth Hormone and its Action
This hormone is responsible for growth of most of the cells of the human body. Some of the metabolic effects of the growth hormone, according to Guyton are: higher protein synthesis rate, higher mobilization of fatty acids from adipocytes, lower glucose utilization, and others.
Growth hormone enhances almost all facets of amino acid uptake and protein synthesis by cells, while at the same time reducing the breakdown of proteins.
Factors stimulating growth hormone secretion:
– lower blood glucose
– lower blood FFA
– trauma, stress
– Testosterone, Estrogen
– Deep Sleep (see blow)
Factors inhibiting growth hormone secretion:
– higher blood glucose
– higher blood FFA
– GHIH (Growth Hormone Inhibiting Hormone)
– Exogenous GH (ex: GH injections).
It seems that these factors may correlate with one another, such as: fasting => lower BG => lower blood FFA (depending on context).
Deep sleep (especially stages II and IV) has a powerful stimulatory effect on the growth hormone and its peak production may be between 11 P.M. until 2 A.M. This is probably because during deep sleep the body is mostly prepared for the healing, repairing and growing processes throughout the body.
Even though I do not want to believe this, I cannot ignore the data. I love being awake until late night. In fact, I’m quite productive after midnight. However, this may be counterproductive to my bio-chemistry which is why lately I’ve been trying to sleep 6-7 hours every night (I don’t like it) and I force myself to hit the bed before mid-night.
The Bigger Picture
I wanted to share these different perspectives because I think that eating as much as we do today is not optimal for our bodies. Larger availability of food and higher food intake (especially higher carbohydrate intake) along with overeating contribute to increased oxidative stress (due to metabolism itself, in part).
This is where Intermittent Fasting kicks ass. IF is a very powerful tool that promotes longevity, destroys bodyfat, and allows the body to easily get into homeostasis. Intermittent Fasting is when you allow yourself at least 8 hours between meals.
Some folks do it for 12 hours, thus having one meal early in the morning and another one early in the evening (works great). Others do it for 24 hours. I do it quite often. And others move from IF to total fasting (water fasting) which can last from a couple of days to a couple of months (this is mostly used for therapeutic purposes).
The muscle building community has demonized catabolism, as I find. Catabolism occurs whenever you break down body tissue to support the metabolism. When you stop eating for 8-12 hours, your body will mostly likely be in catabolism because it has most likely used the energy from the food you ate in your last meal.
Thus, to prevent catabolism and to enhance anabolism (build up of tissue), many folks eat 6-8 times a day. I find it not efficient out of various reasons: impractical, expensive, increased oxidation + that it’s usually paired with daily prolonged workouts in the gym.
A far superior perspective, if you ask me, would be short-term very high intensive workouts + fasting + longer resting periods + appropriate nutrient intake when eating.
Fasting will most likely not impact the muscle mass mostly because of the sparing effect that ketosis and the activity of the Growth Hormone have on protein metabolism. Several studies show it, while others fail to show it.
Besides, looking at the evolutionary perspective, a certain degree of catabolism is needed to allow the body to move its focus from breaking down food and converting it to energy and shift it towards repairing the DNA and healing the body. Besides, you’re burning fat for energy, and this process leads to lower ROS production.
Breaking down body fat helps you eliminate heavy metals, toxins, and plastics that are stored in your belly fat. Some studies have observed the pro inflammatory effect that higher bodyfat has on the body.
Yes, being overweight for prolonged periods of time is not optimal to general wellbeing and is not promoting homeostasis.
Eating several times a day, unless doing it a result of a medical R(x), may not be good.
How do I do It
Up to this point I consider myself as being keto-adapted. I’ve not felt and do not feel hungry anymore, even if I do not eat for 48+ hours. In fact, it’s not hard for me not to eat from a “hunger” perspective, it may be harder for me not to eat from a psychological perspective.
When I do longer-term fasting (48+ hours), it becomes difficult because I’ve been used to eating at least 3 times a day for the past 25 years. So, the neurological implications are big. It’s basically a habit that I’ve been feeding on 95% of my existence. But, it’s breakable and bearable.
I mostly do IF for 16-18 hours and for 24 hours. I do 18 IF almost everyday, and a 24 hour IF at least once a week. There’s no other regularity in the process. I do it whenever I feel like it.
This gives me an advantage when I eat. I can eat guilt free (keto friendly) foods until I feel more than satisfied. Several times a week I have meals that are 2000+ kcals. I may be kicked out of ketosis, but that’s only temporary. It happens rarely because I strategically use MCTs when I have more carbs in one meal (40+ grams).
This is a huge stress reliever when it comes to food and overeating.
When I fast I usually drink plain coffee (no BPC). I do it because I love the taste of coffee. However, it’s better to do total fasting, where your body relies exogenously only on water.
It comes with ease for me to follow this protocol (which I may fully lay down in a short guide if there are folks willing to get it) especially because I implement cold thermogenesis along. But I’ll talk more about CT later.
Hopefully you got some good information from this post and if there’s something you wanna share or something you don’t understand, I encourage you to do it in either of the comment sections below.
1. Mercola – Shocking Truth: Obesity Now Threatens to Overtake Hunger as Global Health Concern Number One.
2. Daniel Lieberman – The Story of the Human Body
3. Soeters, M. R., & Soeters, P. B. (2012). The evolutionary benefit of insulin resistance. Clinical Nutrition, 31(6), 1002-1007.
4. Takahashi, Y., Kipnis, D. M., & Daughaday, W. H. (1968). Growth hormone secretion during sleep. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 47(9), 2079.
5. Wren, A. M., Small, C. J., Ward, H. L., Murphy, K. G., Dakin, C. L., Taheri, S., … & Bloom, S. R. (2000). The novel hypothalamic peptide ghrelin stimulates food intake and growth hormone secretion. Endocrinology, 141(11), 4325-4328.
6. Ho, K. Y., Veldhuis, J. D., Johnson, M. L., Furlanetto, R., Evans, W. S., Alberti, K. G., & Thorner, M. O. (1988). Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 81(4), 968.
7. Bramble, D. M., & Lieberman, D. E. (2004). Endurance running and the evolution of Homo. Nature, 432(7015), 345-352.
8. Raben, M. S., & Hollenberg, C. H. (1959). Effect of growth hormone on plasma fatty acids. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 38(3), 484.
9. Roth, J., Glick, S. M., Yalow, R. S., & Berson, S. A. (1963). Hypoglycemia: a potent stimulus to secretion of growth hormone. Science, 140(3570), 987-988.
10. Giordano, C., Marchiò, M., Timofeeva, E., & Biagini, G. (2014). Neuroactive peptides as putative mediators of antiepileptic ketogenic diets. Frontiers in neurology, 5.
11. Doug McGuff and John Little – Body by Science
12. Cronise, R. J., Sinclair, D. A., & Bremer, A. A. (2014). The “Metabolic Winter” Hypothesis: A Cause of the Current Epidemics of Obesity and Cardiometabolic Disease. Metabolic syndrome and related disorders.
13. Terry Wahls – The Wahls Protocol
14. Guyton – Physiology