Should You Really Be Eating Six Meals a Day?
We’ve been told for years that eating six meals a day is the only way to keep our metabolisms running at top speed and our blood sugar balanced. And this is important if we want to lose weight and keep it off. Well, don’t believe it! The truth is science doesn’t support this theory. And I’ve helped thousands of women and men effectively lose weight by eating as little as two meals a day or even fasting for an entire 24 hours a few times a week. Let me explain...
The six meal a day myth scares us into believing that we either use it or lose it. Meaning if you don’t eat at regular intervals throughout the day, your metabolism will crash. Essentially, supporters claim that you expend more energy (burn more calories) when you eat more frequently. However, there have been at least eight studies that found this to be untrue.
Instead, these studies found that energy expenditure was the same regardless of how many meals eaten in a day . This is huge! Because it proves that the metabolism isn’t slowing down one bit. Now to be fair, there have been a handful of studies that have shown eating more frequently is inversely associated with body weight and percentage of body fat. However, there have been equally as many studies (if not more) showing no association at all . This particular meta-analysis analyzed 15 studies related to meal frequency and weight loss.
Initially their findings supported the myth. But further evaluation revealed that the results were only truly supported by ONE study. And this isn’t the only meta-analysis of its kind. Further, in this study, researchers measured the effects of meal frequency on fat burning as well as hunger and one’s desire to eat. And guess what? They found that eating three meals a day versus six meals produced no difference when it came to fat burning.
However, those in the study that ate 6 meals daily were more likely to feel hungry after their meals. And they reported a stronger desire to eat. This study found similar results related to appetite. Same with this study. But the researchers also reported that participants had a harder time adhering to the 6 meal a day plan. Because who has time to plan and prep six meals a day? Not me! So much for solid evidence. And no wonder why so many people are struggling to lose weight! The truth is there are MANY studies that refute this popular belief. Too many to include in this article and keep it interesting.
What about blood sugar?
Well, the theory still doesn’t hold up. In healthy individuals, it has been shown that glucose levels are tightly regulated–even when fasting for up to 72 hours. This randomized, cross-over study found that eating two larger meals a day (as opposed to 6 smaller meals) reduced body fat, liver fat, and fasting glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. And this study found similar results when type 2 diabetes incorporated short periods of fasting into their day, which leads me to my next point...
A Better Approach
Ok. We now know that eating 6 meals a day isn’t doing your waistline any good. So what’s the alternative? Well, at most, I recommend 3 meals a day. But, if you really want to boost your metabolism and turn your body into a fat burning machine, mini-fasting (a.k.a. Intermittent fasting) is the way to go. Essentially, this means fasting for short bursts of time each day or fasting for one or two days a week. If you’re interested, I detail exactly why and how here. And I also cover all the science here.
Mini-fasting is also one of the secret weapons in both of my best selling books - The Bone Broth Diet and The 10-Day Belly Slimdown. Not only does fasting for short periods of time allow your body to release stored fat and burn it for energy, but it’s also super practical. First, you’re planning and prepping less meals each day. This will actually save you time and money as well as your sanity. A huge win if you ask me! Plus, eating less frequently reduces your exposure to food and the potential to make bad choices. You’ll also be eating according to your body’s natural hunger cues as opposed to the time on the clock.
To Sum it Up…
Everything we’ve been told about the importance of eating six meals a day is false. The truth is there is no strong evidence supporting benefits related to your metabolism, weight loss, and appetite control. On the other hand, science as well as my clinical experience strongly supports mini-fasting as the best alternative. I have honestly found it to be the most effective and practical way for my patients to stick to a healthy diet, reduce calorie intake, and get a slim and sexy waistline.