For years, scientists and health experts have debated small frequent meals vs fewer big meals. People have wondered how many times should we eat a day or how many meals a day to lose weight?
For the longest time, most people ate three meals a day out of tradition more than anything else. But somewhere along the line, there was evidence that eating several smaller meals every day was more beneficial for weight loss and your health. So which one is it? Should we be eating three normal meals or several smaller meals?
How Many Meals a Day to Lose Weight?
The key to losing weight is burning more calories than you consume. Obviously, exercise is a big part of this. However, another important factor in losing weight is limiting your caloric intake every day. The best way to accomplish this is through portion control. You should have a set number of calories you want to consume each day and try to divide it equally among your meals and snacks.
Many years ago, the theory of eating several smaller meals to help you lose weight was made popular. The thinking was that you could avoid consuming a large amount of calories in one sitting by eating small, frequent meals. Doing so would help prevent hunger pangs while frequent eating would keep your metabolism high and help you burn more calories.
Moreover, some studies show evidence of better cholesterol and insulin levels for people who eat many small meals every day. These people are able to maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day. This helps to avoid impulsive snacking that can lead to consuming empty calories. However, more recent research is suggesting that several smaller meals may not help us maintain our metabolism and burn more calories.
“You had to keep feeding the fire and keep the furnace burning”
says registered dietitian Martha McKittrick.
“But that theory goes back and forth, and newer research is showing that it really doesn’t slow metabolism if you’re not eating multiple times a day”
How Many Times Should We Eat a Day?
The more scientists have explored the idea of eating several smaller meals a day, the fewer proven benefits they are finding. Several studies show metabolism is unaffected by the number of meals a person eats every day. In fact, some studies have discovered that several smaller meals can increase a person’s total caloric intake.
Typically, decreasing the number of meals you eat can help decrease your calorie intake, which is one of the goals of weight loss. Even skipping a meal can help. In the past, many believed that skipping a meal would just make you consume more calories in your next meal. But the extra calories in your next meal is still fewer than you would have consumed during the previous meal. In the end, it’s all about limiting your calories, and it may not matter if you do that in three big meals or several small meals.
Several Small Meals Or Three Larger Ones
When it comes to small frequent meals vs fewer big meals, the answer boils down to the individual. The answer is more based on your personality, health status, and weight-loss goals. Whichever method can help you reduce your overall calorie intake is the best option for you.
For example, some people prefer to graze or snack, which makes it more reasonable to eat several smaller meals every day. This is also true for people with active lifestyles who don’t always have time to sit down for three full meals. People who sometimes feel tired after a big meal can benefit from trying several smaller meals. They will have more stable blood sugar throughout the day, helping them have more energy to exercise or finish their daily tasks. People with diabetes should also be encouraged to eat several smaller meals to avoid fluctuations in their blood sugar.
Eating Fewer Meals
At the same time, some people will benefit more from three traditional meals. Those who keep a tight schedule should plan out three big meals, assuming they can schedule those meals at the same time every day without much snacking in between. People who struggle to maintain portion control when it comes to their calorie intake are better off eating fewer meals. After all, it’s easier to divide your daily calories into three meals than six or seven meals. Finally, people who suffer from acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome should also try to eat less frequently to give their bodies time to recover between meals.
In the end, you can decide between several small meals or three normal meals based on your individual needs and lifestyle. There is no discernible evidence that universally points to one or the other. Whatever method helps you limit your calorie intake while giving you the time and energy to exercise daily is the best option.
“Maybe, down the line, we’ll be able to test people to determine which eating frequency is optimal”
“But in the meantime, it’s probably best to go by how you feel”