Skip to Content

You Don’t Have to Eat Every 3 Hours | How to Get the Same Results With Way Less Effort

It’s a Pain to Eat Every 3 Hours

Have you ever heard that you have to eat every 3 hours to keep your metabolism going strong? I used to believe that and hugely inconvenience myself to make constant snacking possible.

I spent an hour every day prepping meals and snacks, packed up 215 tupperware containers for work, and watched the clock all day to make sure I adhered to my eating schedule, whether I was hungry or not. Then I brought those 215 tupperwares home every night to wash them out and start all over.

Now don’t get me wrong, any time invested in healthy eating is time well spent! But what if we could get the same exact results with way less time and effort? We can!

Good news, friends! You don’t have to eat every 3 hours to stoke your metabolism or lose weight.

You can check that off your to-do list for good. (How many hours a week did you just save yourself?!)

Why You Don’t Have to Eat Every 3 Hours

So why do people tell you that you do? Well, we’re told our metabolism is like a fire. And we have to stoke it with a steady stream of food to keep burning calories all the livelong day.

It’s a handy analogy, but it’s just not true.

Per Wikipedia (obviously a scientific authority), your metabolism accomplishes three jobs – “the conversion of food to energy to run cellular processes; the conversion of food/fuel to building blocks for proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and some carbohydrates; and the elimination of nitrogenous wastes.”

So your metabolism burns calories to break down and digest the foods you eat. And the amount of calories it burns depends on the number of calories consumed, not by the timing of those calories.

So for example, let’s say you eat an 800-calorie steak. The packaging reads “800 calories” because your body is going to burn roughly 800 calories to digest that steak and absorb all of the nutrients from it.

If you cut the steak into 4 pieces (200 calories each) and eat one piece every 3 hours, your metabolism is still burning 800 total calories to digest and absorb it.

Breaking it up may extend the “burn” over a longer period of time, but it doesn’t increase the “burn.” And that’s fine if you prefer to snack all day, but it’s totally unnecessary.

Our Ancestors Didn’t Eat Every 3 Hours

Need a little more convincing? Consider that our ancestors didn’t eat every 3 hours. 

They were hunters and gatherers. Some days they successfully hunted and gathered food, and other days they came back empty-handed.

Even in the early 1900s, no one was snacking all day, pulling a bag of mixed nuts or protein powder out of their desk drawer at 10:00 am. They ate three meals a day. That’s it.

In fact, no one had even heard of breakfast until the 1600s. Do you know who came up with the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”?

General Foods. It was a part of their 1944 marketing campaign to sell more Grape-Nuts.

Our ancestors didn’t go into “starvation mode” and start losing muscle when they went a few hours (or even days) without eating. They didn’t have to eat every 3 hours, and neither do we.

How Should We Eat?

So what should you do instead? Focus on your total calorie intake for the day, regardless of how it’s broken up, and just eat when you’re hungry.

You might also find it helpful to eat something small before you exercise, to give you the energy you need to power through your workout.

Some people even go so far as to practice intermittent fasting, limiting all of their eating to an 8-hour window every day. Not only does it not slow your metabolism, it’s actually been shown to boost metabolism, regulate hunger hormones, and raise HGH levels, which help to build muscle mass and boost strength. You can check out all of the benefits of fasting here.

If you’re trying to eat healthier, invest your time and energy into focusing on what you’re eating. I personally suggest making it your goal that 80% of your calories come from unprocessed foods.

What are unprocessed foods? They’re unpackaged, unaltered foods that you buy in their natural state. Examples include steaks, chicken breasts, milk, eggs, quinoa, oatmeal, olive oil, nuts, real butter, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Notice this list excludes packaged snacks, processed meats, and pre-made frozen meals. A lot of those things are marketed as healthy options, but that’s all it is – fantastic marketing.

You want to try to eat things as they came from the earth (think grown or slaughtered) as often as possible.

Wrap It Up

You don’t have to eat every 3 hours to stoke your metabolism or lose weight. So eat when you’re hungry.

And if you’re determined to eat healthier this year, focus your efforts on what you eat, not when, consuming 80% unprocessed foods. What will you do with all of your extra time this week?

Get Fit: The Totally Doable Starter Pack | Free Download

P.S. Ready to take charge of your health? Download our free “Get Fit Starter Pack” here.

Disclosure: While all opinions are our own, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate advertising programs, designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites, at no additional cost to you.