How many times have you heard that you should eat 4-6 small meals a day instead of 2-3 big ones? For the past several years, this seems to be all the rage in the health and fitness industry. While I think there are good arguments behind both methods, it ultimately comes down to your habits and lifestyle.
Let’s discuss the biggest myth around why eating smaller, more frequent meals is better: The Thermic Effect. You body burns calories by digesting; from breaking down the food in your stomach to moving it all the way through the intestines, your body is expending calories to make this all happen. It’s argued tnat eating more frequent meals will increase the thermic effect. While your body might have to undergo more frequent bouts of digesting, they will be shorter in duration than if you ate just a few large meals a day. Whether you eat 6 small meals or 3 large meals, 2000 calories is 2000 calories and it will take the same amount of energy to complete the digestion process. This proves that meal frequency does not affect your metabolic rate and therefore has no direct effect on weight loss.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the pros and cons of meal frequency:
Smaller, More Frequent Meals
This is for you if:
You are a grazer by nature.
You have a desk job.
You have a health condition where you must monitor your blood sugar.
You find yourself thinking about food a lot.
You don’t have a big appetite.
You get tired after you eat a lot.
Smaller, more frequent meals will stop you from snacking between meals, discourage large swings in blood sugar levels, and decrease the amount of time you spend hungry each day. If you have a sedentary desk job like me and find yourself wanting to snack all day long, this will work well for you because you get to eat more often - yay! Research has shown positive effects on cholesterol and insulin levels with these eating habits.
This is the method that I use. I eat so many low-calorie foods like leafy greens and every other vegetable under the sun that if I did only eat three meals a day, I would be eating way too much volume during those three meals.
Larger, Less Frequent Meals
This is for you if:
You have a busy schedule where eating frequently is not realistic.
You struggle with portion control.
You are an “all or nothing” type person.
You like to feel full as opposed to just satisfied after you eat.
It makes sense that when given more chances to eat, the more you will eat. So if you have a hard time with portion control, the less meals you eat in a day equals less times to potentially overeat.
Remember, you don’t have to choose one way or another—you can always switch it up day-by-day, it’s completely up to you!
The bottom line is that either style of eating can offer health and weight-loss benefits. But what matters most is what will work for you. Try each way out for a week and see how you feel, both mentally and physically. There is no right or wrong way; you are more than capable of reaching your fitness goals with either method.