Why do we have to eat every 3 hours (carbs too)?

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People don't really understand why every athlete has to eat regularly every 3 hours – yes, carbohydrates too, not just protein and vegetables. Let's make thing clear!

We've heard at least a thousand times in the TV, read about it in magazines and online web pages that we have to eat 4-6 times a day that it is really boring by now.

So you probably know that instead of the classical (and obsolete) breakfast-lunch-dinner eating habit you have to eat and drink smaller portions frequently in order to speed up the metabolism. But this is by far not the most important reason why you have to eat frequently.

The the most important reason why you have to eat frequently is to keep the blood sugar levels stable.

The role of insulin

To understand why blood sugar swings you have to learn the basics. This is how insulin comes into the picture, which is a storage hormone that regulates the metabolism of the nutrients.

It basically takes the sugar out of the bloodstream to feed it to the cells which use the sugar as fuel. The cells of our body rely on insulin to take glucose from the blood for energy. Translation: what this means is you have to eat carbohydrates regularly simply to have enough energy. Not just for workouts, but for everyday activities too (like going up to stairs for example).

If you do not eat carbs frequently enough (let's say because of a diet), blood sugar levels will drop, and that can lead to nausea, tiredness, and low energy levels.

One more thing: the human brain requires continuous glucose resupply, glucose is its main fuel. So when you don't eat carbohydrates frequently, your brain won't be able to function at its best.

Of course, it does matter what type of carbs you consume. You should avoid quickly absorbing carbs most of the time (yes, even in the morning), the only exception is the post-workout period. In this short time, you have to replenish the glycogen stores of your muscles1. On the contrary, slowly absorbing carbs are your friends during the day. If you consume good food during the day frequently enough, you will always have the energy for your workouts, and for everything else.

The point is that you shouldn't be afraid of the carbohydrates, (unless they are sugars) you should consume them every 3-4 hours even when you are on a diet, but in moderate doses compared to bulking phase.

1: Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. Int J Sports Med. 1998 Jun;19 Suppl 2:S142-5.

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