We’ve been told by the fitness media and from some fitness professionals for many years now that we need to eat 5 or 6 times a day to keep our metabolisms up and to help us stay lean.

This advice fueled the creation and marketing of an endless amount of “healthy” snack foods, breakfast bars, protein bars and meal replacement snacks and drinks. In my opinion it has also led to many people not losing the weight they had intended to, or even gaining weight, when they started eating this way.

The truth is, our metabolism isn’t so fragile that it would drop if we went several hours without eating or waited until we’re actually hungry to eat.

The 5-6 meals a day strategy could be helpful for a fitness competitor who is working out 10-15 hours a week or a college or competitive athlete who is training 20-30 hours a week and trying to recover a lot of intense exercise and activity, however most of us don’t have that type of schedule. Most of us have daily schedules that don’t require much if any intense activity at all and might get 4-5 hours of exercise a week. We have very different energy needs than a competitive athlete and therefore we should be eating differently.

When we eat, we release insulin to remove the fuel in our bloodstream to be stored in muscles and/or fat cells. During this time we have plenty of available fuel so our bodies don’t need to release stored fat for energy. Only when blood sugar and insulin are low do we release fat for fuel. Eating every 2-3 hours actually inhibits the release of stored fat because there is so little time that you would need it.

So don’t be afraid of forgetting to eat or feel like you have to eat so often that you never feel hunger. A little hunger isn’t bad and is actually a sign that your body needs to release fat for fuel. And when you do finally eat, your food will taste so much better than if you had scarfed down a protein bar 2 hours before.