To snack or not to snack…? by Dr. Sarah Schenker

When considering how to lose weight there are plenty of opinions on snacking, is it a good thing – increases metabolism, prevents hunger pangs, or a bad thing – reduces the calorie deficit and interferes with appetite. Both fasting and grazing can affect metabolism but there exists a lot of confusion on how and to what extent. How often have you heard someone moan about their ‘slow’ metabolism or come across diets that promise to ‘boost’ your metabolism? And a quick google search will throw up plenty of misinformation on strategies, concoctions and spurious supplements that promise to put your metabolism into overdrive. But to really understand metabolism there are a few myths to dispel and a few concepts to explain.

At any one time there are millions of metabolic processes occurring simultaneously in our bodies. The speed of these processes is commonly known as metabolic rate and determines the number of calories your body will use up in a given time and yes, the faster your metabolism the more calories your body needs.

There is much debate on the effects of metabolism of fasting versus grazing. Many dieters believe they shouldn’t go for long periods with out food as it will slow their metabolism and a common complaint of people who struggle to lose weight is that previous dieting, particularly crash dieting, has ruined their metabolism. In response to long term starvation, metabolic rate slows to compensate for the calorie deficit, however, the rate to which the metabolic rate decreases during typical Western dietary practices of calorie restriction and weight loss is not significant enough to prevent weight loss. Regular controlled fasting has been shown to be an effective method of weight loss, such as two fast days a week (allowing yourself up to 800 calories per day), or simply leaving 4-5 hours between meals to allow the body to enter the fasted state. However, a major disadvantage is that it takes bucket loads of willpower, especially to begin with. If the result is that you end up feeling so hungry you demolish a packet of biscuits, fasting is clearly not for you!

While it may be the case that once you have lost weight, maintaining that weight is challenging, the metabolism is never ruined. In fact, studies show that overweight people have a higher metabolic rate than normal weight individuals, because it takes more energy to move a bigger body. In other words, your metabolic rate slows as you lose weight and increases as you gain weight. The key to weight maintenance often lies in additional exercise and building muscle mass to compensate for the slower metabolic rate.

Another popular myth is that it is better to eat little and often and many people believe eating six small meals per day or grazing is better than eating three traditional meals. It is thought that this practice will ‘stoke’ your metabolism and is linked to the knowledge that there is a rise in metabolic rate every time you eat known as the thermic effect of food. However, there is very little evidence that eating this way leads to an increase in net metabolic rate. This is because the thermic effect of food is directly proportional to the size of the meal and the energy consumed. So you get the same effect from one larger meal as two smaller meals. A downside to the grazing approach is that you don’t learn to regulate your appetite and can easily consume more calories than you need.

The key to striking the right balance when it comes to snacking or not is appetite regulation. In an attempt to help regulate appetite you may need to learn to deal with feeling a little bit hungry between your meals. This means trying to identify how you are really feeling; are you thinking about a snack because it’s a certain time of day – everyone else is eating! Is it habit, boredom or comfort? People often confuse mild thirst with hunger, so try having a large glass of water, wait for twenty minutes and see if the sensation passes. However, once hunger starts to become a distraction, then it’s time to choose an appropriate snack.

The Liiv Nutritionally Balanced Meal Replacement Shakes are perfect for helping to manage appetite. Not only are they a delicious and convenient way to help you control your calorie intake, they are also expertly nutritionally balanced, to ensure you consume all the essential nutrients you need to support good health while keeping you feeling fuller for longer due to their high protein and fibre content.

If you feel you need a snack, try to avoid anything high in sugar, sugar and fat combined or salt. Not only are these no good for your health, they are neither filling nor satisfying, meaning they are easy to overeat and they can disrupt blood sugar levels that leave you craving more soon after. The best snacks are nourishing and sustaining, here are some of the best ones to choose:

  • Mashed avocado on oat crackers
  • Hummus dips with veg sticks
  • Plain yogurt with crushed berries
  • Handful of unsalted nuts
  • Bowl of spicy edamame beans
  • Aubergine dip with wholegrain crackers
  • Slices of apple with peanut butter
  • Raita mint dip with cucumber spear
  • Buckwheat pancakes with chopped fruit
  • Spicy cauliflower popcorn

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