This is a question I have been pondering a lot lately. After a few weeks on the Metabolic Balance Diet, which asks that you wait 5 hours in between meals, I realized that before the diet I was constantly in a "fed state". In other words, my digestive system was always working and my insulin levels were always at least slightly elevated. And, as soon as I finished digesting, I would feel "hungry" again. Now, I am learning to work through some of those feelings that seem like hunger but are really either feelings of thirst, or perhaps even psychological feelings of hunger triggered by external factors.
There is so much conflicting information out there about what is “healthiest” in terms of how often to eat, and I don’t believe there is one correct answer for this question. Some studies suggest that small, frequent meals are the key to weight management and satiety, others say that three square meals are best, some folks even claim that one large meal per day is the golden ticket. I strongly support the concept of bioindividuality, that each person is biologically different and has very individual requirements to be at their optimal health. For this reason it is important to try different things and see what feels right to you. Where do you feel at your ideal weight, most clear-headed, with the right amount of energy throughout the day? There are so many approaches you can take to figure out what works for you.
For myself, waiting 5 hours has been very liberating and has been helping me manage my weight and some digestive distress I was experiencing before. Why wait 5 hours? Well, it takes approximately 3 hours to digest food. If you wait a full 5 hours you are not only giving your digestive system a rest, but you are allowing your body to tap into your your energy stores instead of storing fat. Waiting 5 hours also allows your fat storage hormone insulin levels to go all the way down, instead of constantly being slightly elevated when you eat frequent snacks and meals, especially if they contain a significant amount of carbohydrates.
I am now a convert to the waiting 5 hours method, as often as I can. It isn't always possible, we are humans and life happens. And, days that I have a big workout or get a lot of exercise, I need to have some carbs and a little protein after my workout. And some days I just can’t wait the 5 hours and I need a small protein snack to get through. I suggest giving this method a try and seeing how you feel. I have really enjoyed reconnecting with what it feels like to be truly hungry, and sit down and enjoy a meal in a hungry state.