Do you need to eat six small meals to lose weight?
The simple answer is not necessarily. Multiple studies have been conducted assessing meal frequency and it’s effect on fat storage, but the research is inconclusive. While some studies show benefits from eating small frequent meals throughout the day, other studies suggest benefits from increasing the fasting period between meals.
Do people lose weight eating 6 small meals a day? Yes.
Do people gain weight eating 6 small meals a day? Yes.
Do people lose weight eating 2-3 meals a day? Yes.
Do people gain weight eating 2-3 meals a day? Yes.
So the real question is: what works for you? In order to lose weight you need to find yourself in a calorie deficit, meaning you need to eat less than your body uses. Making a small change to your meal routine could help you find that deficit.
Some do well with eating three strict meals.
If you are a frequent snacker or find yourself eating a lot between meals, sticking to three meals per day may help you decrease the amount of calories going in. Eating three strict meals will work when you maintain your normal meal portions while cutting the extra 500-1000 calories from snacking. This works when you eat enough but not too much with each meal. You should feel hungry before eating and satisfied after finishing. If you find yourself eating too fast and overly full after meals, this may not be the strategy for you. Try balancing your daily calories across three meals so you aren’t under-eating at one meal and overeating at the other. For example, if I was following an 1800 calorie plan I would want to eat 600 calories with breakfast, 600 calories with lunch, and 600 calories with dinner.
Some do well with eating small meals and snacks.
If you often have heavy cravings, can’t stop thinking about food, or are low in energy throughout the day you may want to try small meals and snacks. Plan 200 calorie protein and fiber packed snacks that can hold you over between meals. This could be something as easy as string cheese and an apple or fat-free cottage cheese and a pickle.
Now if you want to use this as a tool to help you lose weight you need to eat smaller meals (400-600 calories) and strictly plan out your snacks. If your meal size or snack size increases, it will caught weight maintenance or even weight gain.
Find what works for you!
Eating is not a perfect science. With different genetics, environments, and sedentary behaviors it can make it hard to lose weight. If you are stuck at a plateau, try a small adjustment to your meal routine and see if that makes a difference for you!
Written by: ASHLEY LEE
Ashley is a Registered Dietitian, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Functional Strength Coach. Ashley built her career to have a well-rounded expertise in health. She worked as a personal trainer for Vasa fitness for one year, transitioned into a corporate wellness dietitian, and now works as the Dietitian for all of Vasa Fitness. Ashley spends most of her free time doing something active outdoors, playing sports, or spending quality time with her friends and family. She loves to live life and work to help others find the same love for life!