For the majority of of people, eating more small meals is more effective to lose weight. Their meal plan includes a small breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a healthy snack every morning, afternoon and evening.
2 big meals vs 5 small meals
However in a select group of individuals – those with Type 2 diabetes – the opposite has proved to be more beneficial for weight loss; eating a large breakfast and lunch. In a study presented by the American Diabetes Association, they found participants lost an average of 1.23 more BMI points when they ate two 750-calorie meals as the control group did eating six 250-calorie ones.
Granted that was in a controlled setting. For most of us, the two-meal-a-day program would not work. We tend to get too hungry between the lunch of one day and breakfast the following day. The result, overeating which leads to weight gain. Eating five or six smaller meals/snacks throughout the day keeps the hunger wolves at bay and keeps our metabolism humming along at a relatively constant rate thus keeping cravings in check.
Studies have proven that a consistent eating pattern day in and day out provides for the most weight loss. Eating breakfast within one hour of getting up, eating every three hours and stopping three hours before bedtime provides the following benefits:
1) Increased basal metabolic rate (BMR) – your body always has food to burn so your metabolism always works hard.
2) More energy – with a somewhat constant food level, your body always has plenty of food to make into energy
3) Decreased appetite – By eating every three hours, you don’t get hungry and end up eating foods that are not good for you.
It’s Better to Have 3 Small Meals Instead of 2 Big Meals a Day
Skipping meals will only slow down your metabolism and make you feel sluggish and less active.
Hence, it is better to have three small meals and one or two in-between meal snacks, rather than two big meals a day.
Mindful eating is key to successful weight control. Eating while watching television or checking e-mails is not recommended.
Eat slowly by chewing each mouthful of food at least 15 times so there is time for the stomach to send a signal to your brain to indicate that you are full. Once you feel full, put your plate away so that you are not tempted to nibble on leftovers.
When you want to satisfy a craving once in a while, take time to enjoy the food. Do not feel guilty about it.
To successfully maintain a healthy weight, avoid buying highly tempting, unhealthy foods. If you have such foods at home or in school, keep them out of sight. It is good to enlist the support of family and friends’ in your healthy eating attempts.
It is also important to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle as it will boost your metabolic rate, especially if you combine strength training with cardiovascular exercise.
Three big meals or six small meals?
One mistake many trying to lose weight make is skipping breakfast. That is one of the worst things you can do as far as metabolic function. Eating a good healthy breakfast consisting of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, gets your metabolism revved up and running all day.
When you don’t eat breakfast, your body can go into “starvation mode”, actually burn food at a slower rate because it thinks there isn’t any more food coming soon; it tries to make the best of what it has. Eating breakfast wakes it up.
Let’s say you are a woman who is looking to lose a few pounds. Based on your current height/weight, activity level and genetics, it’s very possible that your calorie intake will need to be between 1200 – 2000 calories per day.
Now, let’s say you are a man looking to build muscle. Based on your current height/weight, activity level and genetics, it’s very possible that your calorie intake will need to be between 3000 – 4000 calories per day.
When Less Frequency Is Better
Now, if the woman in our first example (who has a daily calorie intake between 1200-2000) tried to eat 6 small meals per day, each meal would contain between 200-300 calories. That’s NOTHING. You’ll never feel full. You’ll never feel satisfied. You’ll always be hungry. You’ll always be checking the clock waiting for the next “meal” to come.
When your calorie intake is fairly low (which is typical for many women with any goal, and many men looking to lose weight), trying to eat 5-6 meals a day is borderline torture.
When More Frequency Is Better
On the other hand, let’s look at the guy in our second example. With a daily calorie intake between 3000-4000, trying to eat 6 small meals a day would result in 500-600 calorie meals, which sounds perfect. For someone with a higher calorie intake, a higher meal frequency makes sense. Especially when you consider what would happen if they tried to eat only 3 meals a day.
So, as you can see, depending on your calorie intake (which is dependent on your gender, height, weight, activity level, genetics and goals), eating 5-6 small meals per day CAN be the right thing to do for some. For others, it would just cause too many tiny meals that would drive most people insane (and probably lead to them eating when they shouldn’t).
Similarly, 3-4 larger meals might be perfect for some, but gut-bustingly hard for others.
And for the people who have an average calorie intake that’s right in the middle (not too high, not too low), it’s really just a matter of personal preference and doing what’s easier and more convenient for you. If that’s 5-6 small meals or 3-4 bigger ones, that’s totally up to you.
The key to this six-meal method, of course, is calorie/portion control. Uncontrollable eating leads to weight gain whether you eat three or six meals per day. Only you can ultimately find how many calories your body needs per day to lose a reasonable amount of weight per week (1 to 2 pounds) based on your BMR and exercise level.