For years it’s been a top weight loss dieting recommendation from many, many experts: eat 6 small meals/snacks per day, spaced out evenly in a way that keeps your energy levels high and hunger low. The idea is to provide a steady source of “good” calories so that your appetite and food cravings never gets out of control, and you never overeat or make poor food choice.
Also, in theory at least, eating frequent mini-meals — especially ones that contain some protein — should boost your metabolism significantly. All that digestion and dietary thermogenesis should (again, in theory) force your body to burn extra calories. Finally, eating well-balanced meals with the proper ratios of protein/carbs/fat should keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable, which has a variety of health benefits including increased fat-burning.
Now it turns out we might be wrong.
There’s an increasing amount of evidence that frequent eating — or “grazing” as it’s often called — actually isn’t the best way to lose weight and keep it off. Some fitness and nutrition experts have argued for years that eating all day long does not effectively boost the metabolism, and now they have some good science to back up their claims.
Researchers from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague recently did a study involving 54 overweight people with type-2 diabetes. They put half of them on the six-meals-a-day diet and instructed the other half to eat only two big meals: breakfast and lunch. Both groups ate about 500 fewer calories than normal and both diets had the same nutrient profile.
The 2-big-meals-a-day people lost significantly more weight than the grazers, 1.23 body mass index (BMI) points compared to 0.82 BMI points. They also got an added health boost because eating less frequently led to a bigger decrease in liver fat content (an important marker of overall liver health).
Although it may not be very practical (or safe) for people with diabetes to eat only twice a day, the study show that there are some definite benefits to eating infrequently. Obviously everyone is different, which is why some people experience quick, healthy weight loss on a 6-meals-a-day diet while others actually gain weight. It really comes down to how well you plan your meals and control your eating.
The main takeaway from this new research is that it may be worth the effort to try both dieting strategies. If you aren’t losing weight on a frequent mini-meal plan, try eating just 2 or 3 big, healthy meals per day and see how you feel. No matter what, be sure to get most of your calories from high-quality protein sources, good carbohydrates, and healthy fats!
(If you really want to lose weight quickly while experiencing some fantastic health benefits, we highly recommend trying intermittent fasting, which we consider to be one of the absolute best rapid weight loss methods out there!)
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