Fuel Your Body on a Regular Schedule
Eat even-sized meals every four hours. For example, a reducing diet (non-dieters need another 100-200 calories per meal) might be:
- Breakfast (7 to 8 a.m.): 500 calories (cereal + milk + banana)
- Lunch (11 a.m. to noon): 500 calories (sandwich + milk)
- 2nd Lunch (3 to 4 p.m.): 400-500 calories (yogurt + granola + nuts)
- Dinner (7 to 8 p.m.): 500-600 cals (chicken + potato + greens)
This differs from the standard pattern of skimpy 200 to 300 calorie breakfasts and lunches that get followed by too many calories of sugary snacks and super-sized dinners.
Depending on your body size, each meal should be the equivalent of two to three pieces of pizza; that's about 500 to 750 calories (or 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day). Think about having four "food buckets" that you fill with 500 to 750 calories foods every four hours. Even if you want to lose weight, you can (and should) target 500 calories at breakfast, first and second lunch. Those meals will ruin your evening appetite, so you'll be able to "diet" at dinner by eating smaller portions. (Note: Most active people can lose weight on 2,000 calories, believe it or not.)
Whatever you do, try to stop eating in a "crescendo" (with meals getting progressively bigger as the day evolves). Your better bet is to eat on a time-line and consume 3/4 of your calories in the active part of your day; eat less at the end of the day. One runner took this advice and started eating his dinner foods for lunch, a sandwich for his second lunch (instead of snacking on cookies) and then had soup and a bagel for dinner. He enjoyed far more energy during the day, was able to train harder in the afternoon, and significantly improved his race times.
Eat when you are hungry, and then stop eating when you feel content. Hunger is simply a request for fuel; your body is telling you it burned off what you gave it and needs a refill. To disregard hunger is abusive. Just as you would not withhold food from a hungry infant, you should not withhold food from your hungry body. If you do, you will start to crave sweets (a physiological response to calorie deprivation) and end up eating "junk".