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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 13, 2011

Meal Timing Concerns: Breakfast, Frequency, and Snacking

By Mark Sisson
239 Comments

The issue of meal timing is a dense thicket of conflicting advice, a mix of conventional wisdom dispensed from USA Today articles, broscience on Internet forums, and confusing physiological feedback from a dysfunctional metabolism. How can one wade through it all and stay sane? You’ve been told your entire life that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but then you hear about intermittent fasting, Warrior Diets, and skipping breakfast while thriving. The buff/cut/shredded/ripped/insert-increasingly-violent-adjective-to-describe-one’s-leanness-here (what’s next, “flayed”?) dudes at the gym insist you should break up your eating into at least six small meals (and if possible, maintain a steady IV-drip of Muscle Milk throughout the day) to “boost” your metabolism. Some say three meals a day works just as well, while others say it’s even superior. Others try to simplify things. They suggest listening to your own body, to eat when hungry and fast when not, which makes sense, but what if you’re overweight and hungry all the time – can your body’s metabolic signaling really be trusted?

These are common concerns. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I think I can make navigating the meal timing issue a little easier for people. Let’s go through a couple of the most common questions and explore what might work. I think you’ll find that context is key.

To Eat Breakfast, or Not

It’s true that epidemiology shows habitual breakfast skippers trend toward being fatter and less healthy than traditional breakfasters. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be dieters (meaning they’re overweight) and lead generally unhealthy lifestyles (since skipping breakfast is widely seen as unhealthy, they’re more likely to engage in other unhealthy activities).

Is this true for you, though? Are you technically skipping breakfast, only to grab a Frappucino on the way to work and eat a couple stale donuts in your office at 10 AM? Are you skipping breakfast intuitively, simply because you’re not hungry? Or are you skipping breakfast while mustering up all the willpower you have and ignoring your body’s cries for sustenance? These are two very different physiological states. I’d argue that the intuitive breakfast skipper is not skipping breakfast at all. Instead, he (or she) is in tune with his body. He’s still breaking his fast, just at a later time. The tortured breakfast skipper is fighting against his own satiety hormones, a battle he cannot win over the long haul. He’s living in perpetual metabolic discord. What do you think he’s more likely to eat for lunch – a Big Ass Salad whose contents he lovingly and thoughtfully prepared the night before, or a Big Mac combo?

If you’re of the former category and a traditionally-timed breakfast simply never occurs to you, you’re fine. Stick with it and eat when you get hungry, especially if your fat-loss efforts are succeeding.

Others might want to eat a protein-rich breakfast. Overweight teens who habitually skipped breakfast ate either a high-protein breakfast (50 grams protein) or a breakfast with normal amounts of protein (18 grams) for seven days. Three hours after their last breakfast on the seventh day, researchers measured the teens’ neural responses to pictures of food. The high-protein group displayed the least amount of activity in areas of the brain associated with food reward. According to brain imaging scans, the high-protein group was more sated and less interested in the idea of food than the low-protein group. Of course, the usual caveats apply here: these overweight teens were not skipping breakfast so they could do their afternoon squat session fasted, they probably weren’t interested in fasting-induced cellular autophagy, and I doubt they skipped breakfast spontaneously because they were happily humming along on stored body fat energy. In short, they are a specific demographic whose results may not apply to you. But if you’re the type who’s tried to skip breakfast and failed miserably – or did it and felt miserable and ravenous – you might try eating a high-protein breakfast. Add some fat to that protein and I bet you could maintain satiation for longer than the three hours described in the study.

Many Small Meals vs. Few Large Meals

To graze or to feast? According to many fitness “experts,” grazing is supposed to “stoke the metabolic fire,” while infrequent meals “slow your metabolism.” The idea is that eating many small meals keeps your metabolism plugging away at a high rate for the entire day, helping you burn more fat. Conversely, going too long between meals slows down your metabolism, so that when you do eat, your body is sluggish to respond to the caloric load and you end up storing it as fat.

It’s a neat-sounding theory, but it isn’t true.

First of all, there is no metabolic advantage to eating multiple meals. Yeah, your body expends metabolic energy to process and digest food, but it doesn’t matter when or how it’s eaten. You could eat a steak in a single sitting or the same steak cut up into five pieces, each eaten an hour apart, and the total energy expenditure required to process and digest the steak would be identical in both cases. So, assuming macronutrient ratios and caloric content are identical, eating more frequently doesn’t make your metabolism “burn” brighter. If it did, this study would have ruled in favor of increased meal frequency as an effective tool in weight loss for obese patients. But it didn’t.

But wait: eating more frequently keeps you sated, right? If you’re eating more often and keep a cache of snacks on hand, you should be able to keep hunger at bay. This must be true because those 100-calorie snack packs of cookies and chips are so successful, and I always see the trimmest, sveltest folks happily snacking away on them. Why, I remember seeing a cubicle garbage bin positively filled to the brim with 100-cal snack wrappers. Its inhabitant was off for lunch at the time, but with all that healthy snacking, I imagine he or she was fit as a fiddle!

Ha, no. A recent study actually suggests that eating more frequently reduces measures of satiety and fullness in overweight and obese men (the population that most desperately needs satiety, mind you), while eating less frequent, higher-protein meals increases satiety and reduces hunger. This is buttressed by the hordes of anecdotes I receive in my inbox from folks who only achieved freedom from constant hunger when they started eating real, substantial Primal meals and stopped obsessing over frequent, smaller meals.

What About Snacking?

Another study, featured in a recent Weekend Link Love, reveals that 25% of Americans’ calories now come from snacks, half of which are sweetened beverages. Sure, drinking soda and eating chips in between meals is obviously terrible, but that doesn’t really apply to Primal snackers and their macadamia nuts, beef jerky, and berries. Or does it?

For certain groups, I think healthy snacking, or smaller, healthy meals, may be warranted. If you’re starving, it’s definitely better to reach for the beef jerky than the cookie. Chris Kresser wrote about how infrequent, larger meals and IFing (even in the context of a “paleo-type” diet) cause wild blood sugar swings in some of his patients, most notably the stressed-out ones with cortisol disregulation, so that’s something to consider. In my experience, whenever I’ve had a bad night’s sleep or am going through a particularly stressful situation with work or life in general, I like breakfast; I get hungrier more often and skipping breakfast or fasting simply doesn’t feel right, so I don’t. Rather than tough it out or power through it, I listen to my body in these situations and eat if I’m hungry. I strongly suspect that trying to fast when your body doesn’t “want” to does more harm than good. Problems arise when this becomes chronic, when you’re always stressed out, always hungry, and always snacking. But in the short term? Eat when hungry.

If you must snack, include some protein. As to why, I’ll draw your attention to a brilliant post by J. Stanton, entitled “Why Snacking Makes You Weak, Not Just Fat.” Stanton explains why eating a carb rich snack without protein is inherently catabolic: the insulin spike stimulates muscle protein synthesis, for which the body needs amino acids, and without dietary protein the body must draw on muscle protein stores. Once or twice this wouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re snacking on protein-deficient carby foods throughout the day, every day, you’re eventually going to see muscle wasting. The classic example is the skinny-fat cyclist or jogger with a fanny pack full of dried fruit and a bandolier of glucose gel packets.

Personally, I like my buddy Aaron Blaisdell‘s slogan: “Not IF, but WHEN (When Hunger Ensues Naturally).” Let hunger happen. Don’t force the fasting. Don’t fight hunger just because your official “eating window” hasn’t arrived yet, and if you feel it’s “ensuing” unnaturally, do some investigation. Are you sleeping well? Are you training too much, or not at all? Is your 80/20 turning into a 60/40? If all that stuff is under control, consider that you may need a few days to entrain your ghrelin secretion to your eating schedule. Ghrelin? It’s a hormone that precedes and indeed predicts mealtimes, induces hunger and is secreted when you’re about to eat. Your ghrelin secretion schedule follows your eating schedule, and it’s a fast responder, so a few days should be plenty of time to get things lined up. In the meantime, you may have to deal with a little extra hunger at your previously normal mealtimes.

In the end, it all comes down to doing what works for you. I’ll admit that IF is a great tool for people who thrive on it. I like throwing in a fast here and there, because it works for me. You have to consider how these strategies work within the confines of your physiology. If something isn’t working for you, don’t “stick with it” just because it worked for others or there’s a big blog post listing all the benefits with links to rat studies and human trials. Eat a big breakfast if you need it. Eat food before your workout if you find you perform better with something in your stomach. Your needs are the bottom line – all other considerations pale in comparison.

Of course, your needs will change, especially as you continue with the PB lifestyle. Once you start sleeping, eating, dealing with stress, and moving well, things get easier. You might get hungry a little later in the day. You might find you even have enough energy for a quick workout before that first meal. You might look up from your plate and realize that it’s noon and you haven’t eaten in sixteen hours – and you feel fine. When that happens, go with it. Don’t force it, but let it happen if it will. The good news is that this is all contextual, and nothing is written in stone.

How do you handle meal timing? Have you noticed any changes since adopting a Primal lifestyle?

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239 Comments on "Meal Timing Concerns: Breakfast, Frequency, and Snacking"

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Robert
Robert
5 years 2 months ago

Great article! I personally try to avoid snacking and feel an occasional fast has helped control my hunger.

Marie
Marie
5 years 2 months ago

Conversely, allowing oneself to get hungry…knowing what it feels like without panicking…is a good thing. Snacking all day leaves me too bloaty and the psychological feeling of having to constantly put something in my mouth definitely leads to weight gain for me. I’m definitely in favor of 2 or 3 meals rather than 6 or 7 mini-meals. (although those bodybuilders do get pretty darn lean that way…).
I am a 4;30 or 5 am runner though, so I always have a protein shake after my shower…waiting til noon is no option here!

Alan Carr
5 years 2 months ago

“(although those bodybuilders do get pretty darn lean that way…)”

Yep.

I’m afraid I can’t take too much notice of studies, when the evidence is walking around and talking to me in the gym!

Same with protein. The “studies” tell us we only need maybe about 20 grams per day. Any more is wasted.

Tell that to ANY successful bodybuilder?

Generally I love Mark’s blog but found this post unconvincing. Do what feels good, as and when you feel like it, while ignoring what is proven to work for bodybuilders?

No thanks.

Gman
Gman
5 years 2 months ago

Bodybuilders? Step a few feet back and
take a good look at bodybuilders…alot
look like giant, plastic insects…do
you really consider that a role model of health and the way humans ought to look? “Successful bodybuilder?” what is
that????

Gman
Gman
5 years 2 months ago

One last comment…aren’t we all trying
to build our bodies?

Ricardo E.
5 years 2 months ago
I think it’s not just a matter of “it works for them” Alan. Sure, if you want to get to the shredded level of a bodybuilder you will need at least that much protein, everyday. Because this is their job, they cannot falter at that. Their training and diet goes through a entire protocol to ensure maximal fat loss with minimal muscle loss, this is far from being the main goal of the Primal living. I’d like to eat all that protein, because I enjoy it, but if it happens to get lower than that some days, there’s no need… Read more »
Ricardo E.
5 years 2 months ago

We may be building our bodies, but we aim for health and strenght, while bodybuilding aims specifficaly for maximum muscle hypertrohpy.

einstein
einstein
4 years 2 months ago

wrong site pal. bodybuilding with the help of steroids and artificial whatnot is not healthy. mark’s not a bodybuilder. neither are most of the primal people. we go for health, strength and leanness, not building muscles for muscles sake in unnatural ways.

Doniyor Yusupov
Doniyor Yusupov
5 years 2 months ago

Interesting.

anti-fuss russ
anti-fuss russ
5 years 1 month ago

if you ate only half the amount of food (by weight) compared to the amount of crap ya wanna serve us up with thru BLOG you should be right with the required
quantity

Terri
Terri
4 years 2 months ago

I’m sorry but this is incoherent.

Matt
Matt
7 months 3 days ago

Hahaha why is it that people who are always angry or trying to make a point tend to misspell or misspeak?

Anne
5 years 2 months ago

I’m a recovering grazer, and appreciate this compilation of excellent info. The combo of my local Crossfit gym, Mark’s Daily Apple and pregnancy-induced hypoglycemia helped me see the light.

I’m finding it much easier to eat well when I don’t have to plan to eat ALL THE TIME. Which is what I was doing before!

Mindy
Mindy
5 years 2 months ago

Recovering Grazer. I believe that’s my problem. Grazing. I’m never full and eat constantly. I’m not overweight but keeping my diet in check is a major struggle. Maybe all I need to do is stop grazing and eat my three meals a day. That will be my goal for the rest of this month and leading into the next. I think I can do it 🙂

Allison
5 years 2 months ago

Hi Mindy

How is your fat intake? Consider upping it ….I had hypoglycemia and had to snack all the time…I was eating good protein but it wasn’t until I upped the fats and really lowered carbs that I resolved it for good – no more snacking 🙂 well maybe occasionally! But I feel satisfied from meals now, not hungry an hour afterwards.

Nomad1
Nomad1
5 years 2 months ago
I always have been scared to skip breakfast because of all the myths out there…but then I looked at my husband who doesn’t eat breakfast because he isn’t hungry in the morning and he does just fine. He has a physical job and doesn’t collapse because he doesn’t eat breakfast. So I started skipping breakfast most days of the week and it really works for me. I find that when I eat breakfast, I feel hungrier all that day and my brain obsesses on food more. If I don’t eat breakfast, my hunger level stays down and I don’t think… Read more »
Chris N
Chris N
5 years 2 months ago

Whatever meal you eat after not having eaten in a while is breakfast, no matter what time of day it is. Just because you don’t eat right after you get up in the morning doesn’t mean you’ve skipped breakfast.

I know I’m getting a bit technical but I think understanding the difference between a morning meal and “breakfast” is important.

In your situation (and you husband’s) you just like to keep your fast going a little longer before you break it.

Nomad1
Nomad1
5 years 2 months ago

Chris, it’s people being way too literal and technical like that in response to basic conversation that makes people stay away from the site. Yes, most people get that any time you eat after waking is technically breakfast because you are breaking your fasting state…but we all know what people mean when they say breakfast.

Chris N
Chris N
5 years 2 months ago

I think maybe I worded my post wrong. After re-reading it sounds harsher than I intended. I was only commenting because you said that you, “started skipping breakfast.” No worries.

I personally think there’s a psychological difference between thinking you are skipping breakfast vs. putting it off till noon or longer.

Elisabeth
Elisabeth
5 years 2 months ago

I like your point on the psychological difference, and will be using it on myself. I had a tiny amount of guilt that I had been “skipping breakfast” lately, and I think that mind shift will do it in.

peopleaware
peopleaware
5 years 2 months ago

picky picky..relax nomad1
it’s people like you, who turn others off with your scrutinous remarks

Theslimreaper
Theslimreaper
5 years 2 months ago

I’m totally with you on this one Chris. I always say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – but it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat it. I usually eat mine around 4-30pm.

Allie
Allie
5 years 2 months ago

I’m the same way! If I eat breakfast, I generally think about food all day. It’s insane. But if I don’t eat it, my morning is just the same!

Nomad1
Nomad1
5 years 2 months ago

No worries Chris:-)
I get what you mean about thinking about it differently. If you consider it skipping, you mentally might associate with a feeling of depriving yourself.
I like the feeling of working out on an empty stomach too, I seem to have more energy.

Tonja Pizzo
Tonja Pizzo
5 years 2 months ago

YAY for you!!!! I started only 6 weeks ago–I am finding 2 meals a day totally works for me late omelet most days (around 11a) and dinner around 6 with a handful of nuts around 4 or so. I work from home so I have the luxury of making a quick meal in the middle of the work day. I am sticking with what works too!

Gman
Gman
5 years 2 months ago

I have very much been testing this
2 meal a day theory for a few weeks…
I think it is the way to go…especially the older you get…and if you have a sedentary job…
I bring eggs with me to work that I cook
when I get up have them around 10-11am and like to have a big ass salad at 6pm….

Lauren
7 months 23 days ago

Yay! I’m so glad you said that! I landed on this post today because I am usually an intermittent faster, having my first meal at 1 or later, but this morning I was hungry. So I ate a healthy breakfast, protein, fat and veggies and was ravenous 2 hours later! I always check with Mark to figure things out. 🙂 Going back to skipping breakfast!

WS
WS
5 years 2 months ago
Cool post Mark. I have carried over my previous endurance sport habit of eating and snacking at certain times every day. I had to eat often when I was a chronic cardio person eating a non-PB fare or else I was not a person you would want to be around because I was so grumpy. My wife would plan our weekend chores around my eating so I wouldn’t get in a bad mood. I haven’t made it to the point of more natural eating, but I’m progressing. Eating real food makes it incredibly easier to go long periods in between… Read more »
Jaybird
5 years 2 months ago

Interesting post Mark. I have always been a grazer, in the sense I always ate when I was hungry and this happened to be every 2-3 hours. Maybe I’ll try eating larger more infrequent meals and see how I do.

Dr. Kwame M. Brown
5 years 2 months ago

Jaybird – I think you may have missed the point (though I really can’t speak for you OR Mark). It seems from the article, you would keep doing what you’ve been doing, since the main focus of the article is to listen to your body, eat when you’re hungry, and eat plenty of protein. It does not seem to me that Mark is ADVOCATING large meals, as much as he is just saying that they are not the true evil.

Jaybird
5 years 2 months ago

I agree with you, I think that is the point he’s trying to get across. I am a big believer in switching things up though. Maybe I have always eaten that way because I have trained my body to be hungry at those times. Every sports nutrition class I took certainly drilled 2-3 hours in my head. I guess all I’m saying is I think i’ll try it out and see if it is better or worse than my current plan. If it works, it works.

Terri
Terri
4 years 2 months ago

There is something to be said for training your body. For most of my life I have eaten every 2-3 hours and would get headaches if I didn’t eat but since going primal and lower carb I have trained myself to not eat breakfast because I like having two BIG meals in a day instead of three medium sized ones and I no longer get hungry in the morning.
Apparently it only takes about a week if skipping breakfast to get used to it.

There is an article on the leangains site about breakfast. It’s great.

Burn
5 years 2 months ago

I must say, one of the most beneficial aspects of living primal for me has been the freedom from being hungry all the time. I used to eat every 3 or 4 hours, and if I didn’t I’d get very irritable and unpleasant to be around. The ability to be flexible with my meal times has definitely improved my quality of life in general.

Crunchy Pickle
5 years 2 months ago

I completely agree. It is so nice to not be constrained by finding/cooking food all the time. I do that enough with three kids! 🙂

N
N
5 years 2 months ago

Gah- I know! Especially during the summer… I feel like my entire day revolves around fixing my two girls food or cleaning up.

Andréa
Andréa
5 years 2 months ago

God, I love the freedom of not being hungry all the time. I did not realize that my hunger was such a burden.
What you described used to be me.

Sudenveri
Sudenveri
5 years 2 months ago

I was one of those always hungry six-meal-a-day adherents, and had to pack snacks if I knew I was going to be out and about during a feeding time. It’s much, much nicer to only need three meals a day (not to mention tastier; bacon > unsweetened oatmeal bar). I have found that I do need to eat breakfast, though, and unless I’ve had an unusually large meal, IF isn’t really for me.

I will admit to being way too amused by the fact you used the word “broscience” and by that “flayed” bit.

Daniel
Daniel
5 years 2 months ago

i have ibs type stuff and large meals mess me up(still) but i hate snacking all day. i haven’t eaten since yesterday evening and it’s 2 pm texas time. just not hungry. i still dont know how to handle my meals times well but i DO know that the more i center my diet around fat, the better i do overall. less hunger, less ibs symptoms. fat rules.

Allison
5 years 2 months ago

+1 for the fat….it fixed my hypoglycemia !

Robin
Robin
5 years 1 month ago

Mine too! And +1 for not being hungry all the time! Hypoglycemia was ruling my life! I love not wasting all that time preparing food and making sure I have snacks with me where ever I go.

Susie
Susie
4 years 11 months ago

good for you, really envy you. I am constantly hungry. I also have IBS, but for me the more fat I eat the more unbearable the pain and symptoms are. all you on this board who can eat as much fat as you want, you have no idea how lucky you are.

Duncan
Duncan
5 years 2 months ago
When I was eating “healthy” according to conventional wisdom (low fat, lots of whole grains, vegetables, citrus fruits, very little animal fat), I experienced regular, painful acid reflux and heartburn, and I mean, steel-band-around-the-chest, feels-like-a-heart-attack heartburn. When I saw my (previous) doctor about it, she didn’t question my diet at all, but focused on when I ate. When I told her that I would skip breakfast, and ate lunch and dinner when I was hungry, and not at any set time, she told me that this was why I was having digestive problems. No suggestion at all that what I… Read more »
Susan
Susan
5 years 2 months ago
I know that light-headed feeling! Mine got so bad, I would almost pass out! Once I gave up the grains, most dairy (I still eat kefir, plain yogurt and whole eggs)and started going very high protein–much more protein/day than the gov’t recommends, my symptoms disappeared. Cravings gone, energy level steady and no more moodiness (I didn’t like that any more than the people around me, I’m sure!) I now eat when my body tells me I need to, and I don’t stress about any sort of rules. This attitude, in itself, has been an enormous release of stress for me… Read more »
Lela
Lela
5 years 2 months ago
I HAD bad hypoglycemia. I thought I needed food every few hours to steer off the shakes/light-headed feeling/ and especially the irritability that comes with low blood sugar. Now on the HIGH fat, Moderate protein intake and no grains – I feel great with only eating 3 meals a day. I just attempted my first intermittent fast and it was the first time since I have been eating primal that I had low blood sugar symptoms that felt out of control. Considering ways to fix that for the next time I want to IF. I love the freedom of eating… Read more »
Ruby
5 years 2 months ago

“sub-cum” did you really mean to say that?

Diego-p
Diego-p
5 years 2 months ago

Why do people put eggs in the dairy category? EGGS ARE NOT DAIRY PEOPLE!

Heather
Heather
5 years 2 months ago

It’s that crash in the afternoon that was doing me in. Whenever I ate carbs (pasta, rice, etc.) I would get very sleepy within just an hour of eating. Sometimes I would have to pull over when driving because I could feel myself nodding off.
Ever since going primal I have had no problems with that. In fact, I’m more alert than ever before. No matter what time of day I eat.

Kris
Kris
5 years 2 months ago

Hey Mark,

Great post!

Any thoughts on timing if you’re trying to put on muscle? I found that I’m natually less hungry,but need to hit a goal of 3500 calories to sustain muscle growth. Should I eat even if I don’t physically need too? And should it be in large meals or spread out via snacks?

Maggie
5 years 2 months ago
I am right with you, Mark! I think it is important to eat if you’re hungry, and NOT eat if you are not hungry. People tend to want some shining silver bullet that will get rid of allll their diet problems, and meal timing is one of those ideas that always gets people thinking “well I can lose those 50 pounds in a snap if I just… eat 6 tiny meals a day” or “just… eat breakfast at 8:02am each morning”, etc… Being healthy is about being in tune with yourself, and eating whole foods – the foods we were… Read more »
Scott T.
Scott T.
5 years 2 months ago

I’ve been following the warrior diet lately and I love it, I feel more focused during the day and not having to worry about food frees the mind up during the day.

Domo
Domo
5 years 2 months ago

Perfect Timing, I’ve been thinking and researching this subject all week. Just breakingmyfast now 11:45PST, up at 6am walked to the train, took the 5story stairs to the cubicle, but only just feeling hungry, so I ate and enjoyed it (3eggs with ham)
Dinner tonight when I get hungry and same thing tomorrow, has been a trend this week, tons of energy and blasting through my workouts.
Not losing a damn pound though after being strict primal for 10days now. Giving myself 3wks before possibly adjusting.

Unshod Sarah
5 years 2 months ago

I was just talking with a friend of mine who is a Gluten-Free Life Coach. She told me that she lost weight and started to feel amazing when she got happy! In other words, she worked on her stress responses and cortisol situation before struggling with the other aspects of a restricted diet. In fact, she said that it was easy, even though she has many food allergies. Because of her allergies, she’s basically primal and feeling great. This is her website: http://janelleholden.com/

Bill
5 years 2 months ago

Big Ass Salad–just sounds wrong.

Nomad1
Nomad1
5 years 2 months ago

but tastes so delicious! 😉

Sara
5 years 2 months ago

I just blogged about this topic this morning 🙂 I’m starting to wean myself off the traditional meal schedule I’ve been on. I’ve realized I’m eating snacks three times a day, just because that’s what I’ve always done, even when I’m not hungry. I’m going to start listening to my body, and only eat when I’m truly hungry!

Kelda
5 years 2 months ago

Cortisol is the biggest ‘trip’ factor for me with slipping into ‘grazing’. Stress obviously generates it but I find that disrupted sleep is also a big culprit – lots of people underestimate or don’t appreciate the connection between poor sleep habits (episodes) and eating patterns. Lots research out there now about how inter-connected the hormones are between sleep and appetite.

Check out Emily Deans evolutionarypsychiatry blogspot for various articles.

N
N
5 years 2 months ago
This is a great point – sleep and cortisol really monkey with eating patterns. The longer I stick with paleo/primal style eating, the less concerned I am about when I will eat next… BUT, I find it absolutely crucial to get a good night’s sleep. If I don’t, the next day I make a point to eat three meals and two snacks that are full of protein, veggies and good fats. (This is actually helpful when avoiding junk foods, because I know eating ice cream or white rice or other crap at night will wreck my sleep… I am too… Read more »
Primal Toad
5 years 2 months ago

Keep it simple. Eat when you are hungry.

Nomad1
Nomad1
5 years 2 months ago

I think that is a little TOO simple. It might work for some people, but definitely not for all. If some people ate every time they felt hungry, they’d be eating all day long and taking in way too many calories.

Primal Toad
5 years 2 months ago

True. But, the statement is true for fat adapted primals.

Robin
Robin
5 years 1 month ago

Yes when you are on the carbohydrate roller coaster you could eat all day, but when you are using fat as your primary source of fuel your metabolism is just so stable! You really can just eat when you are hungry. 🙂 Loving the Primal life!

Charlotte
5 years 2 months ago

Great post! I’ve noticed since going Primal that I am not tied down to eating at specific times or specific meals. I just eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I’ve also noticed that I don’t have to eat every 3 hours to keep my energy up (I can go for hours not eating and I’m fine). I feel like I have mastered my metabolism, rather than be ruled by always having to “graze” on things such as those low calorie snack packs.

Kishore
Kishore
5 years 2 months ago

You are probably snacking on your fat stores in between meals:)

Kishore
Kishore
5 years 2 months ago

Food seems to taste better when I eat fewer times a day (2-3). I feel more sensitized to subtle flavors of meat, veggies, fruits and spices. A candy bar or a slice of pizza tastes over-powering and repulsive.

The Real Food Mama
5 years 2 months ago
I have to say that when we first went Primal it was very easy for my to fast at breakfast time, in fact I usually never really felt the urge to eat at all in the morning. It was pretty weird. And I stopped eating so much during the day, just listening to my body and eating when it told me to. Of course we still enjoy the sit down dinner together, sometimes its a big dinner sometimes its very light, there are just other family benefits to sitting down together. Now that I am pregnant again, there is more… Read more »
The Real Food Mama
5 years 2 months ago

sorry typing fast while 4 yr old bugging me for the computer! LOL

my = me

slipping = skipping

you = you are

tess
tess
5 years 2 months ago

i’m under the impression that the body won’t bring significant fat out of storage if there’s much glucose OR insulin in the bloodstream…. if one is snacking constantly, the two of them are NEVER low at the same time, no?

Naomi Most
4 years 10 months ago

This is true, and even eating large quantities of protein without eating carbs can keep enough glucose circulating (via gluconeogenesis) to prevent fatty acid metabolism.

You can read this guy’s scientific workup of why the morning is a fat-burning wonderland until you eat something that increases glucose and/or insulin.

http://carbbackloading.com

(It’s in the free report.)

Steve
5 years 2 months ago

I follow leangains. 16 hour fast followed by an 8 hour feeding window. I’ve been doing this for more than a year now and never get hungry outside of 12pm-8pm. I usually eat 2 big meals, one to break the fast and one just before starting. The only times I ever go outside of this is during very stressful periods or when social time/family time calls for it which I can usually nudge more in my favour.

LiciaHarry
LiciaHarry
5 years 2 months ago

Since dumping grains and sugar from my diet, I’ve found it difficult to GET hungry. I found that skipping meals just made my body go into starvation mode, even though I wasn’t hungry, and the scale would not budge for weeks at a time. So I’ve started increasing my carbs up into the PB “sweet spot” rather than in the ketogenic area, and I keep my fat intake highest – and my weight loss is once again on the move.

Gary Deagle
5 years 2 months ago

Personally I IF till Noon, workout on just BCAA’s and eat 3 meals a day. Since I have switched to these practices I have gotten leaner and had more productive workouts.

Unshod Sarah
5 years 2 months ago

I’m still a primal beginner, but I feel hungry a lot. I didn’t think I liked meat, but I ate a giant porkchop last night and liked it. (I call my Big-Ass Salad a Kick-Ass Salad, LOL). I kind of wander around the kitchen wondering what to eat. I’m just not that into meat and probably eat too much canned fish.

Nicole
Nicole
5 years 2 months ago

I think I had that feeling too when I started. It’s like you have to get used to being “not hungry”, but “not full” at the same time. I was used to the full, bloated feeling that you get when eating pastas and breads, but it’s just a different feeling to be full on meat and veggies, at least for me. Now on primal, after eating, I’m not hungry, but I don’t feel “full” either, sorry, kind of hard to explain…

Milemom
Milemom
5 years 2 months ago

I get it. Eating all that crappola makes me feel always full… bloated and icky… but never really satisfied (so I keep grazing). I’m guessing that eating Primal is giving you a good “full” (though not what your used to) and is, hopefully, leaving you satisfied. I am always amazed at how my children will eat a big dinner, then go jump on the trampoline…I’m guessing there is some survival value in that!

tess
tess
5 years 2 months ago

do take care that your canned fish contains no soy products….

John D. Pilla
John D. Pilla
5 years 2 months ago

And I would worry about canned fish being farmed fish. A lot of Omega-6’s, not to mention grain-fed, what we avoid. Like eating conventional beef vs. primal grass-fed, organic beef. Much better and primal.

rosalie
5 years 2 months ago

I have been a certified fitness trainer for over 25 years and so many of my clients have struggled with the “eating breakfast rule”. I never eat breakfast and start my day with an intense exercise program and encourage my clients to eat only when they are hungry. Many of my clients complain that when they do eat breakfast they are hungry all day and overeat. Without breakfast they are more successful at achieving and maintaining their goal weight.

Marie
Marie
5 years 2 months ago

All this time I never believed my boyfriend… I thought he was confused or fooling himself. Guess he is right.

Jac
5 years 2 months ago

Great post, as always. Interesting that there was no mention of the leptin reset idea, given that it’s a pretty big topic on the forum at present. I was doing really well on PB, with decreased appetite and managing my IBS easily – until I starting eating when I wasn’t hungry (large amounts of protein first thing in the morning). Now I’m all messed up again and it’s taking ages to recover. I was tempted by the magic bullet. Sigh.

dthalman
dthalman
5 years 2 months ago

same for me, IBS, it never turns out well for me if i eat when i’m not hungry

FAST
FAST
5 years 2 months ago

Hey Mark. Im huge fan of intermittent fasting. I saw your interview with dr. Mercola on youtube. You talked about adaption period, getting ‘fat adapted’.

This was a greatpoint. Few years ago i tried warrior diet and failed.. i think it was due to the fact that my body wasnt adapted to the new eating schedule/habbits. Lately ive skipped most “junk” carbs. Now the intermittent fasting (or warrior diet) feels good increasingly better for me. Thanks.

Chris Tamme
5 years 2 months ago

More then 2 years of skipping breakfast here and I love it. I keep losing inches but seem to maintian my weight. I have seen increase in my strength and stamina. I think I will be IFing for the rest of my life but then is it really intermittant.

Dorothy
Dorothy
5 years 2 months ago

I am so glad to read this article. I have given up trying to eat breakfast when I get up, I am not hungry. However, so many people are so shocked when I say I did not eat and am working out without any food. I do have good workouts and then usually I am hungry and have something.

ElizaGrok
ElizaGrok
5 years 2 months ago

Great post. I am almost never hungry for breakfast and then will grab something small around 10am. I went through a phase for years that I would force myself to eat breakfast. This usually ended up making me feel sick, but I stuck with it because eating breakfast was the “healthy” thing to do. I feel so much better (and eat so much less) now that I only eat when I’m hungry.

Sofie
Sofie
5 years 2 months ago

One of the best books on this is Mastering leptin by Byron Richards.

Morghan
Morghan
5 years 2 months ago

I eat when I’m hungry and it seems to be working out just fine for me.

I usually wake up around five and eat around nine because that’s when I start getting hungry. Not always though, sometimes I’ll be ravenous when I wake up and cook a massive breakfast and then not eat again all day.

I’m not sure how that works for others, but even when I was 75# heavier and eating regular (usually high-carb) meals I wasn’t really hungry half the time I ate, I just ate because it was time to.

Jess
Jess
5 years 2 months ago

I just had this conversation with a classmate last week. I told her that I regularly skipped breakfast because I just wasn’t hungry. She flat out called me stupid. Quite frankly, I find ignoring what my body is telling me stupid, but whatever rubs your Buddha…

Chase
Chase
5 years 2 months ago

Phew, nice to know I can discontionue my steady IV-Drip of Muscle Milk…that was getting expensive! 🙂

Carlos
Carlos
5 years 2 months ago

I decided to skip breakfast for a few days, and ended up feeling tired and unable to concentrate, so skipping breakfast isn’t for everyone – just like most things. I drink a protein shake, mixed with almond and coconut milk, and a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil, and I’m set for 5 hours.

Lesley
Lesley
5 years 2 months ago
I’m only two weeks in to primal living, but one of the biggest benefits I’ve experienced is NOT feeling hungry every couple of hours. I am pregnant, and I also think I’m experiencing a little bit of “low carb flu,” so I’m a little tired. But, in general, my body is responding fantastically to the change. The hair/skin symptoms of PCOS that I’ve battled for almost 20 years are diminishing before my eyes, so I’m amazed. Mark, one of my favorite parts of today’s post (and I only stumbled across the site and the PB a couple of weeks ago… Read more »
slacker
slacker
5 years 2 months ago
What you said about good primal meals when you are ready for them! It is great to not be constantly negotiating with yourself about how long you can hold out. It is fighting against the design of the system if you follow the CW. It is miserable. I’m one of those people who do very, very poorly on the CW (lots of small high-carb meals with low fat and modest protein). It is just a recipe for failure and constant hunger alternating with bingeing for me. The Primal approach is incredibly liberating. I make better choices because they are satisfying,… Read more »
David
David
5 years 2 months ago

I eat once once per day. I only drink water but feast at night on paleo foods. I started this style of eating last August (almost a year ago). Since that time by weight has dropped from 320 to 218. I was hungry during the day for the first few weeks but now I rarely get hungry till dinner time. My body has adapted just fine.

Runnergal
Runnergal
5 years 2 months ago
I’m going to be the bold one who said I went back the other way. Or really I went back to who I was before I got messed up. I was one of those people who ate frequent small meals a good decade before the concept became mainstream. Not grazing (eating constantly) But smaller meals and anywhere from 3-6 per day. I probably average 4 meals. However I never did the faddish “piece of fruit” snack or ” a string cheese”. What’s the point of that? If I am hungry I eat some food and enough of it to matter.… Read more »
Mark
5 years 2 months ago

I always have more energy when I do not eat breakfast.

I am just not a morning person so therefore I am not hungry in the morning.

Why force myself to eat when I feel better if I don’t??

Pookin
Pookin
5 years 2 months ago
A caveat – if you have/have had an eating disorder, be very, very careful with anything like IF. I decided to try IF (skipping breakfast) for about a month and although I became more used to it over the course of the month, it was always a fight (sometimes to the point of wanting to gnaw my arm off and eat it). It set me off on a two month binge fest which I am now just regaining control of. The issue was probably more a case of, as you said Mark, not listening to my body as the IF… Read more »
Primal K@
5 years 2 months ago

Great post!

I eat when I’m hungry and my body usually suffices with 3 decent meals. I rarely find the need to snack.

Last week I went for some blood tests and had to fast. My appt was for 11 am and I didn’t get blood drawn until after noon. I had been fasting for almost 19 hours and I still felt great.

Jourdan
Jourdan
5 years 2 months ago

Fantastic article! I could not agree more with you in regards to both snacking and fasting!

Arla
5 years 2 months ago

Hi, I finally made it here–interesting site! I’ve had a health hobby for 30 years, and had to go with listening to my body and common sense. I loved your comment about cutting a steak up in 5 pieces and eating them an hour apart. One thing that would happen that nobody thinks about is that what’s already in your stomach rots, while it’s waiting for the new piece to digest (since it takes meat and some other foods much longer to process). It’s good for auto-toxemia.

JM
JM
5 years 2 months ago

Nothing rots in your stomach. It doesn’t take meat long to digest in the high-acid content of the stomach. The only thing that “rots” (reacts to bacterial action, that is) is undigestable grains and seeds that ferment in the colon, causing gas. The stomach doesn’t “wait” for anything to digest and let other stomach contents sit.

Charlotte
Charlotte
5 years 2 months ago
3 weeks in, I’m findng that I look forward to breakfast, although I’m not always hungry for it until I start rummaging in the fridge. Also, I am lasting until maybe 13.00 or 14.00 when previously I would be gnawing my stationery by 11.30, or maybe even 10.30 desperate for fuel. I’m still starving for dinner when I get in at 18.45 (so I normally pack a PM snack)but I am sated until the morning after my evening meal. This is just totally new to me; it’s a family joke that I eat ALL THE TIME and I can be… Read more »
Grim
Grim
5 years 2 months ago
I understand the concept of eating when hungry, but I think for many of us that only have a few months of PB under our belt that can be a difficult thing. Most of us are programmed to eat at 7, 12, and 7 (BF, Lunch, Dinner). We aren’t -really- hungry, but our brains are telling us that we’re hungry because it’s our prescribed feeding time. That’s why I’m taking to fasting. I’m doing IF right now and just started, but what I’m finding is that I feel -much- better when not eating breakfast. My brain is still telling my… Read more »
Bobandy
Bobandy
5 years 2 months ago

I do tend to force breakfast, only because if I dont I get really hungry around 10am, and there are not many EASY options at work (and cant really take time that isnt ‘lunch’ to prepare something healthy). A moderate breakfast high in fat and proteins soothes me over through lunch, and I usually end up taking a late lunch at that and feel fine. Former grazer converted in less then 2 weeks!

Raymond-ZenMyFitness
5 years 2 months ago

I find it ridiculous people are still puzzled by this.
Eat what you want when you want Fast, 6-7 times a day doesn’t matter … have a look in the mirror if you are overweight eat less .. if you are lean spot on … you have a whole life time to experiment and get it right!

Raymond

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