When you eat is as important as what you eat.

We’ve known for some time now that grazers, those who seem to nibble throughout the day, as opposed to eating 3 big meals – have an easier time keeping their weight down. But, it really hit home for me when I worked with a test group of women and men from around the country on my latest weight loss program. Those who were consistent with their exercise plan and balanced eating certainly achieved weight loss results. But, those who spaced their meals apart evenly throughout the day achieved even greater success.

Here’s the secret: When you eat is as important as what you eat.

My 3-4 Hour Rule

By spacing your meals apart every 3-4 hours, you’ll keep your blood sugar levels constant, avoiding those energy highs and lows that set you up to overindulge in sugary, high carbohydrate foods. Spacing your meals apart also helps rev up your metabolism and preserve lean body mass (muscle). On the other hand, if you wait until you’re starving, you tell your body to hold onto its fat, to protect itself, and to consume its muscle. Remember this; your muscles are your fat burning machines, so do what you can to preserve these little fat-burning factories. The more lean muscle mass you have, the MORE calories you’ll burn throughout the day, even when you’re sleeping. By training yourself to eat smaller portions every 3-4 hours, you’ll not only see far greater weight loss results, you’ll also feel better. You’ll have more energy, more vitality and greater mental clarity, allowing you to accomplish a whole lot more during your workouts and beyond!

A typical day might look like this:

Meal 1: 8 a.m.

Meal 2: 12 noon

Meal 3: 3:30 p.m.

Meal 4: 7 p.m.

Make Breakfast a Priority

Never underestimate the importance of your very first meal. After 7-8 hours of sleep, eating breakfast is like flipping a magical switch that turns on your metabolism, while setting the stage for your blood sugar and energy levels. Try to eat your breakfast within 1 hour after rising. After that, eat again every 3-4 hours. I promise you’ll not only feel more satisfied, have greater stamina, and burn more calories throughout the day, you’ll also keep your moods consistent, making for a more fit – and fun – you!

Still not convinced? Here’s some intriguing research that supports the benefits of meal timing:

· In a study published in British Journal of Nutrition, weight loss participants who ate frequent meals preserved considerably more lean muscle tissue than participants who ate fewer daily meals, but consumed the same number of calories.

· Scandinavian researchers tested two diets on a group of athletes who were trying to lose weight. Although all of them lost the same amount of weight, the ones who ate more frequent meals lost almost all fat tissue.

· At Nagoya U. inJapan, athletes who ate frequently – 6 meals a day – preserved their muscle tissue as they lost weight, whereas the ones who at the same number of calories in just two daily meals lost muscle tissue.

· In the Journal of Human Clinical Nutrition, weight loss increased and the loss of lean muscle was minimized in a group of obese women who ate every 3 hours versus another group of obese ladies who ate every 6 hours.