Plenty of self-proclaimed nutrition gurus argue that frequent small meals spread throughout the day are more beneficial metabolic boosters than a standard three meal diet plan.
These “experts” claim that more frequent meals keep your body satisfied and prevent possible overeating by avoiding low blood glucose levels that can make you hungry. There is little scientific evidence to support this argument.
In reality, research indicates that the number of meals you eat in a day has no impact on your metabolic rate.
Eating more frequently does not help your body burn more calories.
Let’s take a look at what scientific trends point to this fact and why you should worry about the total number of calories you consume and food quality before meal frequency.
Regular Meals vs. The Number of Meals
The argument for more frequent meals seems logical on the surface. Some research points to the fact that regular meal patterns can have a positive effect on thermogenesis—your body’s heat production—and your insulin profile.
A 2005 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that regular eating has these beneficial effects in obese women.
People who argue for more meals per day are misinterpreting current research. Scientists have only proven that a regular meal pattern is better than an irregular meal pattern.
Research from 2004 published in the International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders proved that irregular meal frequency may lead to long-term weight gain due to the lower metabolic energy expenditure associated with an irregular meal pattern. This study only focused on meal pattern and regularity, not on the number of meals in a day.
Certified strength and conditioning specialist James Fell wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune in 2012 which debunked the “nibbling” myth and interviewed researchers working to prove that a higher number of smaller meals doesn’t boost your metabolism. Fell’s researchers all agreed that three or four meals per day are sufficient.
You may not even need three or four meals a day. In fact, scientists published results from a meal frequency study that found no correlation between energy expenditure between people with two meal or six meal diets.
A 2010 study in The British Journal of Nutrition confirmed these findings and applied them to weight loss, concluding that an increased number of meals did not promote weight loss over an 8-week study.
What is The Solution
It doesn’t matter if you eat 3 meals or 6 meals per day. Research indicates that best solution for boosting your metabolic rate is to focus on a regular eating pattern instead of adding more meals. So called nutrition “experts” who promote a six meal strategy aren’t using evidence to make their claim.
While some people find that eating more meals makes them feel “fuller,” research proves that it doesn’t matter if you eat two meals or six meals per day, the number of meals you eat does not influence weight loss.
So choose a frequency of feeding that fits your lifestyle. If you like the regimentation of eating frequently throughout the day, then go for it. On the other hand, if you prefer consuming just a few large daily meals, that’s a viable option as well. The important thing is for you to be able to stay in control of your total daily caloric intake.