Hey Angels and Alphas,
For the majority of people, not just those trying to lose weight, three meals a day is just the norm. You have breakfast, you have lunch, you have dinner, and (for many of us) a little grazing in between.
But with the rise of new nutrition trends such as intermittent fasting (IF) and time-restricted eating (TRE), which basically have you skipping meals or entire days of eating as well as having smaller eating windows, it’s absolutely understandable that you’d start to question how many meals a day you should actually be eating if you want to slim down.
According to a study done in 2012, published in the journal Obesity, people who eat up to six smaller meals a day instead of three big meals usually have fewer cravings throughout the day. And in reality, both groups lose the same amount of weight.
So… should you be ditching the three meals a day thing so you can try IF, TRE, or another new form of performance eating?
Let’s debate the cases FOR and AGAINST the three meals a day plan.
Generally, consuming three meals in one day alongside one or two small snacks is a great rule of thumb for weight loss. When you have a structured meal plan in place, you’ll be achieving the results you’re looking for and you will be satisfied with and by your food.
Eating three meals every day can indeed help you stay full for longer, reduce hunger and cravings, and prevent the overeating that happens on the “one meal a day” diet. An example – overweight adults who consumed oatmeal for breakfast were generally more satisfied and consumed fewer total calories compared to people who only drank water in the morning, according to a 2015 study in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.
While we definitely need more research to prove this, a viable option here would be the three-meal-a-day plan combined alongside two meals a day plus a couple of snacks. Skipping breakfast and hitting that time-restricted eating quota can also help you slim down further and make the plan much easier to maintain.
For many people, making breakfast the biggest meal of the day and following that up with smaller meals makes much more sense in terms of having energy. Research actually shows that eating more calories early in the day will benefit your blood sugar control which will decrease cravings.
When you eat more frequently, and add some more snacking throughout the day, this will lower your overall calorie intake and body mass index… and can actually help increase your intake of filling fiber and your intake of essential minerals and vitamins.
If three meals a day actually works for you, go for it! But there’s basically no hard evidence that a three-meal eating pattern can be more effective in terms of losing weight than others. If that’s your goal, you should choose whatever best fits your lifestyle.
But that being said, we still recommend choosing smaller mini-meals rather than three big meals because (1) this allows more flexibility and (2) results in a more filling and nutrient-dense meal thanks to a greater fiber intake.
Without a doubt, three meals a day will not be a good approach if most of those meals are huge. There’s a big problem you can notice with people who choose this meal plan is that they go heavy on those three meals, and not to mention, some of them leave their dinner too close to bedtime which is linked to less weight loss results.
The bottom line is…
You have to find out what works best for you. Most restrictive diets or non-traditional eating plans such as time-restricted eating aren’t very sustainable unless you can turn them into a habit. And if your plan is not sustainable, you won’t be able to stick with it and you will rebound and regain all the weight you lost.
The research on the topic is mixed. The ideal meal frequency for weight loss isn’t accurately determined as of yet. But we can all agree that what works best for you will ultimately… be the best for you.
If you’re struggling to lose weight, and you’re interested in the three-meals-a-day approach, make sure you’re adding a few 100 calorie snacks between your meals and tracking your intake so you can calculate your overall calorie goal and keep your hunger in check.