Nutritionist and detox specialist Alina Zhukovskaya, nutrition consultant and founder of the Natural Diet project Natalie Makienko and expert of the Nutrilite brand Yulia Bastrigina helped us to understand the pros and cons, as well as the principles and rules of fractional nutrition.
Two points of view
Fractional nutrition (eating in small portions 5-6 times a day) has long won the recognition of nutritionists, athletes and those who are losing weight. According to Alina Zhukovskaya, such an explosion of popularity is justified physiologically: "Our stomach has a very small volume - only about half a liter, and eating in small portions does not stretch it, and also eliminates the feeling of heaviness and discomfort after eating."
However, the legendary Soviet nutritionist and author of the natural health system, Galina Shatalova, argued that proper nutrition should be rare - no more than one or two times a day. She herself lived to be ninety-five years old, playing sports and leading an active social life. By the way, let us recall the example of Tibetan monks who usually eat only once a day and break records for longevity and youth. Where is the truth?
Pros and cons
First, let's weigh the pros and cons. Fractional nutrition is good because each meal starts the digestive and endocrine systems, and this requires a considerable amount of energy. In other words, frequent meals speeds up metabolic processes, which allows not only not to gain weight, but also to lose it. Nutritionist Yulia Bastrigina draws the following analogy: “Everything that is not used in the body, by definition, undergoes atrophy. Take, for example, astronauts: their bones and muscles "rest" in zero gravity. That is why, getting back to Earth, these people cannot move independently. As for the digestive tract, due to long breaks in food intake, the functional activity of the pancreas decreases and congestion occurs in the liver and gallbladder, which leads to inflammation and even gallstone disease."
"People want simple advice: eat two hundred grams every three hours and everything will be fine."
According to Makienko, frequent meals are also convenient: “The fact is that not everyone can find and develop their own diet, but people want to receive simple advice: eat two hundred grams every three hours - and everything will be fine. If your body agrees with such a regime, then fractional nutrition will be beneficial."
On the other hand, our body needs rest. “When we take long intervals between meals, our digestive system rests, and the body uses fat stores to replenish energy. In fact, the stomach cannot constantly digest food, it needs to be unloaded from time to time,”Alina believes. By the way, the nutritionist agrees that the habit of eating often spurs the metabolism, helping in losing weight. However, she warns that “rapid metabolism leads to premature aging of the body. But supporters of rare nutrition and competent fasting, as a rule, set records for longevity."
Natalie Makienko notes that frequent meals have negative sides: “A person starts eating without appetite, food ceases to bring pleasure. Whatever one may say, but the principle of fractional nutrition does not take into account the individual characteristics and biorhythms of the body. For many people, such a system is not suitable, because the stomach simply does not have time to digest food in a short period of time. In the fractional nutrition mode, the endocrine system and the gastrointestinal tract are constantly working, as a result of which the risk of an excess of enzymes and acids that accumulate in the liver increases. At the same time, a person sometimes feels tired, drowsy, and more serious disorders can also occur."
About water and snacks
“Personally, I always drink warm water before meals: it improves digestion,” says Alina. - I would not recommend drinking during meals - it is better to wait at least half an hour. The amount of fluid the body needs depends on weight and physical activity: if you play sports, then you need to drink more than a person leading a sedentary lifestyle. But do not go to extremes: excess fluid in the body increases the burden on the kidneys, so listen to your body."
Many who decide to switch to fractional meals are faced with the need to take containers of food with them, and this is not always convenient. There are several options here: either bring large containers to work with a few days' supply, or buy small snacks. “I love the Bite bars, they are natural and made with healthy fruits and hearty nuts,” says the nutritionist. "You can take fruits, vegetables, unsweetened yogurt, nuts with you, but, as mentioned earlier, if you know that you will not have the opportunity to refresh yourself in a couple of hours, then it is better to eat a large meal before going out." In extreme cases, you can keep at work a "standby" package of oatmeal, which can be steamed with hot water, and honey (for taste).
“In fact, the amount and frequency of meals is a very individual thing. Fractional nutrition can perfectly fit into the inactive life of an office worker: he will not feel tired or sleepy after eating, but he will receive the necessary boost of energy for efficient work. Plus, if you've been eating small meals all day, you can indulge in a small dessert without worrying about overeating or gaining weight. If we are facing a physically active or very busy person, then he simply does not have the opportunity to eat often. I would recommend such people to eat a couple of times a day, but with more substantial portions in order to stock up on energy and spend it until the evening,”says Alina.
"Be your own nutritionist, because no one knows your body and your daily routine better than you."
The most important thing is to listen to yourself and your body. “For a person with a slow metabolism or overeating problem, fractional meals are perfect. If you calmly manage with two meals and feel good, then I see no point in changing the regime,”the expert says.
No matter how trite, but the well-known principle of the golden mean should be present in all aspects of our life. Therefore, the best thing we can do for our body is to learn how to keep balance. “We choose clothes for this or that occasion, so why not do the same with food (I call this approach 'eating haute couture')? For example, if you know that you will be spending all day at the office, then tune in to frequent small meals. If you have an active weekend with your family, then eat heavier in the morning to gain strength. Be your own nutritionist, because no one knows your body and your daily routine better than you,”says Alina.
It often happens that a person experiences hunger regardless of the frequency of eating. “It is very important to pay attention to what exactly you are eating. You should not rely solely on someone else's experience and general advice from nutritionists: someone feels better when they lean on proteins and fats, while someone else is more suited to a diet rich in carbohydrates. If you are constantly hungry, try keeping a food diary and documenting how you feel and satiety after a meal. Your body is your friend, and it sends out a lot of signals that you need to learn to recognize,”says Alina.
Natalie Makienko is also convinced that “any psychological discomfort harms us, therefore it is necessary to make up a diet for oneself, and not rush from one extreme to another, from one nutritional system to another.If you feel like eating fruit for breakfast and you know you will feel good, then don't force yourself to eat porridge."