Just like so many things related to diet, snacking is controversial. Some of the reasons we eat every 3 hours are to regulate your blood sugar and reduce the chance of overeating all in one meal. There are however some downsides relating to digestion – impairing the motility motor complex and regulating ghrelin (hunger hormone) and bile (aids in digestion).
I have a conundrum. Right now, I eat every 2 hours because my dietician has recommended this to reduce adrenal fatigue while treating my SIBO condition. For the past 5 years I have been eating every 3 hours because in the bodybuilding community, this is a common practice to maintain a high metabolism, as well as a steady blood sugar, so as to aid in muscle growth. The logic behind it makes sense. This approach is backed by research and practiced by countless bodybuilders around the world. Yet, how do I reconcile this while improving intestinal health with time-restricted eating and the motility motor complex?
In addition, how do I reconcile with the fact that sugar is “bad”? It is well known that too much sugar causes mental fogginess, diabetes, insulin resistance, reduced insulin sensitivity – the list goes on and on. My diet currently consists of low fat and low animal protein. I also am not supposed to eat any grains or dairy. So, I end up eating a lot of fruit, enough to reach 140g of sugar a day. Is this bad? I used to think so. But I feel fantastic! So I am not sure anymore. Ever since I started this diet, I have consistently even energy levels, no need for coffee or caffeine, energy swings are nonexistent, sleep is great, and I’ve lost 5 pounds! I’ve also had my non-fasting blood glucose tested and it was 94 mg/dL, which is great. So, is sugar really a bad thing?
When I was bodybuilding and competing, I always kept my sugar below 40g/day to keep insulin sensitivity up. This was supposed to help convert more of the carbs you eat into muscle and not fat. Ironically though, I did not feel amazing. My energy levels were sporadic and my sleep wasn’t great. What made the difference? Was it eating less animal protein or no refined sugar? Or maybe it was the supplements and treatment for my SIBO. There are a lot of factors affecting my body right now, but I am definitely questioning some of the ideas that used to be the basis of my diet choices.
Honestly, I would still recommend less sugar and time-restricted eating for anyone who is healthy, athlete or non-athlete. I still think that in at least a hard training cycle, participants need to eat more often. This is because athletes burn through not just calories quickly, but micronutrients. A lack of nutrients and constant blood sugar can lead to hormone imbalances. However, I still recommend those same people cycle through times where they time-restrict eating so as to aid in cleaning out their digestive system.
In the end, what’s right? I’m not sure. But, I CAN tell you what I am going to try: reducing my fruit/sugar consumption with some more potato and quinoa and, once my SIBO is under control, cycling on and off time-restricted eating with more frequent meals throughout the day.