Raise your hand if you’ve ever glanced at the clock after powering through your to-do list only to realize you can barely remember when you last had a snack. Or you skipped breakfast because your well-intentioned plans to meal prep did not, well, go according to plan. No matter the reason, sometimes skipping meals is just a fact of life. And although it seems innocuous, experts are pretty emphatic about eating regularly because of the effects skipping meals can have on your body and mind. Self Magazine tells exactly what goes down (two experts used the term “hangry,” if that’s any indication).
As a general rule of thumb, experts say you should aim to eat every three to four hours. Although the specific timing will vary from person to person, there are various reasons it's smart to eat this often. “Eating regularly throughout the day keeps your metabolism running at full speed, prevents dips in your energy, keeps you alert and focused, and [can help keep] your weight steady by preventing overeating at later meals,” Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., founder of the New York-based BZ Nutrition, tells SELF. It’s not like if you don't eat often enough on one day, all your systems will immediately go haywire. But your body will react to the dearth of fuel in various ways.
And what if you don't eat that often? For starters, your mental faculties might take a dive. “The main fuel for your brain is glucose, which you get from eating foods—predominantly carb-rich ones,” Rachele Pojednic, Ph.D., assistant professor in the nutrition department at Simmons College and professor at the Harvard Extension School, tells SELF. Complex carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are the most nutritious sources of glucose because they take a longer time to digest than refined carbs (plus they’re often loaded with other beneficial nutrients). Without a frequent carb supply, your blood sugar can dip too low, leaving you feeling sluggish, irritated, and like you can’t concentrate, says Zeitlin.
>> Read more: Time Your Carbs Perfectly To Crush Your Goals
Then the physical and emotional symptoms start kicking in. While you might not be able to concentrate on tasks like answering emails, but you sure will be able to focus on food. When you don’t eat often enough, “the feeling that you need to have something to eat takes over,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You, tells SELF, adding that craving food and not having it means it's prime hanger time.
“Hormones like leptin, which is appetite-inducing, and ghrelin, which is appetite-suppressing, will change to indicate you’re hungry,” says Pojednic. When you don’t satiate that hunger, you might experience shakiness or sweatiness as a response.
>> Read more: Hangry? These 11 Foods Turn Hanger Into Weight Loss
To see what kind of long-term damage you can inflict on your body from not eating, click here to read the original article.