If you’ve been dieting you have probably read or heard from numerous people mention that one of the secrets to weight loss is to eat 6 meals a day.
The belief is that frequently eating small meals throughout the day will increase your metabolism to burn fat, and keep the cravings at bay and better control your sugar.
The hope is that you will eat less and lose weight. However, recent research questions if this theory actually works!
more: The 20 Best Fast Weight Loss Tips (They Work!)
Medical research from Harvard reports that there is an inverse association between weight and eating frequency. Simply put, the heavier someone is, they eat less often.
Literature supports that normal weight people who maintain their weight eat four meals a day. But this research is not enough to support that we should eat more meals for weight loss.
On the contrary, although consuming smaller, more frequent meals is often advocated as a means of controlling body weight, some studies show that there is no advantage in terms of its effects on metabolism and appetite, and may, in fact, even have adverse effects on hunger and satiety.
more: How To Lose Weight Fast With 3 Scientifically Proven Steps
An extensive literature review was done in 2015 that reviewed 15 studies to assess the correlation between meal frequency with respect to changes in fat mass and lean mass.
Interestingly, the study showed that the positive relationship between the number of meals consumed and improvements in body composition were largely attributed to the results of a single study.
Moreover, the small difference in magnitude of effect between meal frequencies suggests that any potential benefits, if they exist at all, have limited practical significance in weight loss.
Interestingly, a study in 2011 assessed the effect of high protein meals versus increased meal frequency in weight loss and appetite control. It was shown that the higher protein meal group compared to the normal protein meal group experienced lower late-night desire to eat and preoccupation with thoughts of food.
more: This 1200 Calorie Meal Plan Will Help You Shed Pounds
The data suggests that consumption of high protein intake, but not greater eating frequency, led to improved appetite control and satiety in overweight/obese men during energy restriction-induced weight loss.
What is the Best Way to Lose Fat?
Ultimately, the point of these studies is that it is not about how many meals you eat, it’s about how much and what you eat.
You need to cut your total calories in for the day and burn more than you eat.
more: The 21 Best Foods For Fast Weight Loss
You can eat more meals if you want, or stick to three meals, but you need to have a reduced caloric intake to lose fat.
Why Should You Eat 6 Meals Per Day?
Now that we debunked the myth that eating more meals will not increase your metabolism or help burn fat, why should you still eat multiple meals? Well, if you find yourself struggling to keep you appetite at bay, smaller meals can help you reduce your craving. By keeping yourself full, you are less likely to cheat on your diet. This is why eating breakfast is so important to your diet. After fasting for almost 6-8 hours, you wake up starving. If you eat a nutritious breakfast, you may keep yourself full so you are less likely to snack throughout the day.
You also keep your blood sugar better controlled so you don’t have a hormone imbalance causing you to overeat.
more: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways To Lose Belly Fat
What Should You Avoid When Eating Smaller Meals
Snacking is bad – when it is not planned. When you feel hungry you can eat anything.
If you find that you get hungry often, plan your meals so you avoid overeating or cheating on your diet.
more: What To Eat When Eating 6 Meals Per Day
For example, if you know you struggle to keep your appetite under control between breakfast and lunch, then back a healthy protein bar or yogurt to eat between those meals.
more: Take The Quiz – Do You Know The Unique Veggies That Burn Abdominal Fat?
The best foods to snack on throughout the day are yogurt, granola, salads, protein shakes or bars, oatmeal, fruits, fiber cereal, or nuts.
All these snacks contain high amounts of protein and fiber so you can stay satiated. Avoid getting anything that is packaged as they will have salts and extra sugar.
more: The Myth Of Eating 6 Meals Per Day
Stay away from the cafeteria when you are hungry because you will be tempted to buy a muffin which will load on the calories!
Packing your own food is the best way to stay on your diet because you know exactly how many calories are in your food. In all your meals ensure you have plenty of protein, fiber and of course fruits and vegetables. Eat them up guilt free.
more: What To Eat 6 Times Per Day To Lose Weight
Remember, it’s not about how many meals you eat. The key to success in dieting is reducing your total caloric intake. So keep those calories low and your waistline will be slim too!
Rajiv M Mallipudi, md, mhs is an internal medicine resident physician, personal trainer, athlete and author. He has over a decade of personal training experience and helped hundreds of clients of all levels achieve their weight loss and fitness goals. This inspired him to work as a clinical researcher at the nationally recognized, Johns Hopkins Hospital Weight Management Center. During medical school he and his classmates created the health and wellness organization, med fit, which provided personal training and nutrition counseling to the medical student body. In his spare time, Dr. Mallipudi enjoys playing ice hockey, dancing, and training for his next bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions. Dr. Mallipudi serves as a contributing writer for the Diet and Fitness sections.
disclaimer: Vixen Daily and its authors may offer health, fitness, nutritional advice but this is designed for educational and informational purposes only. All the information contained on Vixen Daily and its articles is not intended to constitute the practice of medicine. The information provided in articles on Vixen Daily should never be relied on, or used as a substitute or replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Vixen Daily and its authors are not responsible for any actions or inaction, safety or liability on a User’s part based on the information that is presented in the Site. If you seek medical advice, speak to a health professional in person about your particular issues.
i was told that in order for me to win the battle of the bulge, i need to eat small meals throughout the day. thanks a bunch to this article because it helped me discover the key to success which is to reduce my calorie intake.
as long as you are consuming healthy foods and have proper exercise then you won’t have to worry about gaining weight. it will also make losing weight very easy.
i believe that eating less can help you lose weight but after reading this article, i learned that it is actually about how much and what I eat. instead of starving myself, i will start counting my calorie intake and exercise daily.
i like this, a lot of it made me think about my eating habit and it’s really bad. i will start working on it and hopefully it will help me get back in shape.
keep in mind that choosing healthy meals and eating in small portions is the best way to avoid gaining more weight and growing your belly. you can always eat as many times a s you want for as long as you don’t eat too much in each meal.
there’s no need to count the meals you have to eat per day. for me, it’s better that you plan what you eat especially snacks to avoid feeling hungry leading to overeating.
eating frequent small meals will definitely reduce the cravings. this is really helpful in controlling unnecessary meals or food intake.
i usually eat 5-6 times per day. i think for me, it doesn’t matter how many times you eat. what matters is what you eat and how much you eat. as long as you eat in small portions and you choose healthy foods.
i will start planning my meals and not cheat on my diet.
everything still depends on you, your lifestyle, your schedule, etc. as long as you eat in small portions and do not wait for you to feel really hungry before eating, you’re going to be great.
thank you for clearing this out. i have always been the natural type and i don’t want to be eating like i have to count everything.
doesn’t matter how many times exactly as long as you eat in small portions and do not wait until you feel really hungry.
always choose the healthy food as much as you can
3-4 is good for me as long as i keep a healthy diet
it’s not really about how many meals you have, it’s how much you eat.
i believe 4-5 HEALTHY meals is enough.
i agree, as long as you stick to the healthy side then you’re good!
no matter how many times you eat, as long as you choose healthy and in small portions, that’s good enough.
this can be really helpful as long as you also eat healthy.
as long as you eat in small portions each meal.
i thinks it’s best to eat healthy meals that are prepared with much thought should be the goal.
as long as you’re eating healthy small portioned snacks, you’re good!
eating multiple times daily is indeed very helpful in avoiding weight gain.
i eat 4-5 times daily and this keeps me from feeling hungry
i usually have 5 small meals per day. the point is you don’t wait until you feel really hungry and that you don’t overeat.
this will at least train you from over eating
i believe this is very effective
for me it doesn’t really matter how many meals you take, as long as you’re eating healthy
i think i’ll do this, it does make sense to eat in portion control
i think that as long as you keep up with eating in small portions, you will be good!