How Often Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

There seems to be a massive amount of confusion when it comes to this question — How often should I eat to lose weight?

The scientific and truthful answer? It doesn’t matter.

What fitness magazines and supplement companies will tell you? Five or six small meals per day.

The saying “A lie repeated often enough eventually becomes the truth” seems to be appropriate here. Fitness magazines and nutrition companies are in the business for one thing.. to make money! And what better way to do that than to get people to believe they need to be eating 5, 6, or even 7 small meals each day in order to boost metabolism and lose weight! Preparing 5 or 6 meals a day can be a daunting and time consuming task. The solution for most is to buy protein shakes for a quick meal. The result is a remarkable increase in supplement sales. Many supplement companies love telling people they need to eat more frequently throughout the day, and now you see why.

So how often should you eat to lose weight? You will be delighted to hear that meal frequency does not matter when it comes to weight loss. Therefore, you can eat your meals at whatever time is convenient for you. As for the losing weight part, you still need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. This means watching what you eat and carefully dialing in your calorie consumption.

Great News! No more stressing out about meal timing!

This can be a huge relief for those who are constantly stressed out about meal timing and preparation. Timing your meals so you need to eat every 2-3 hours adds quite a hefty load of inconvenience for most people. Who has the time to prepare this many meals each day? Now you can conveniently schedule your eating to fit your lifestyle.

The Science Behind Meal Frequency

When it comes to meal frequency, the Thermal Effect of Food (TEF) applies. TEF is the temporary boost in metabolism after food is consumed. It is 100% proportional to the amount of calories you eat at a given time. For example, if one person eats six meals totaling 2000 calories, and another eats 3 meals totaling 2000 calories, the amount of energy each of these people expend by eating is the same. The person eating six meals will just have smaller energy expenditure after each meal than the one eating three bigger meals.

There have been many studies that have shown there is no difference between the person eating 3 meals or the person eating 6 meals. The most recent study can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19943985

There has not been a single scientific study that shows more frequent meals leads to more weight loss.

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2 comments on “How Often Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

  1. Walt Lessun says:

    Does it still make sense for diabetics to string out their meals?

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    • Ches says:

      When comparing  3 meal regimes and 9 meal regimes among type 2 diabetics over a 4 week period, there was no noticeable deference in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism between 3 and 9 meals. Therefore, there was no confirmation of the benefits of higher meal frequency. 

      So even for diabetics,  It all boils down to personal preference. 

      See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9353602

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