You've probably heard this one before: Eating more frequent smaller meals stimulates the metabolism, keeping it running at a faster pace and thus burning more calories. False.
Eating more frequently may help control appetite (prevent overeating) or maintain blood sugar levels and thus sugar cravings (don't eat refined sugar), but as long as total calories are the same, your metabolism doesn’t really care when you eat.
The British Journal of Nutrition published a study in 2009 that proved men and women following a strict low-calorie diet for 8 weeks lost equal amounts of weight regardless of the number of meals consumed throughout the day. Subjects consumed the same number of calories, while half the group ate three meals and day, and the other six. There was no difference in fat loss between the groups, appetite control, or measurements of hormones that signal hunger. A similar study with the same results was published in the Journal in 1987.
If eating six times a day works better for you, great. I can barely prepare 3 meals a day - who has time for 6? In the end it doesn't make a difference.
For the rest of us that don't employ a personal chef, eating a lean diet is more important than meal frequency. An ideal diet should include a balance of 20% protein : 50% carbs : 30% fat (20:50:30). Maintaining a healthy nutrition balance should be the goal. Meal frequency and planning should be on whatever schedule works best for you to accommodate a healthy diet. However, keep in mind - if you don’t eat proper meals, you’re more likely to crave the addicting sugar-salt-fat formula perfected by the junk food industry.
Filed under: Nutrition