Should You Eat 3 Meals a Day? There are a lot of different eating plans out there, with sky-high numbers coming from all of them. Some say that eating smaller meals throughout the day helps you lose weight faster. Others say that restricting your eating window to only a few hours between noon and 6 p.m. will make you lose weight faster by increasing your metabolism. And still, others say that eating three bigger meals a day is the best way to go for weight loss and maintenance because it keeps your hunger in check and prevents you from overeating at any one time.
What does the research say? Which approach is best for weight loss and long-term maintenance? Read on to find out more about meal frequency, what type of diet is best for losing weight, and how often you should eat during the day in order to maintain healthy body weight.
What is Meal Frequency?
Meal frequency is the number of meals or snacks you eat each day. It’s important to note that you don’t have to eat every three hours to maintain a healthy meal frequency; it’s more about what works for your schedule and lifestyle. For example, if you’re a busy professional who works long hours, you may not have time to eat three meals a day.
Some people also prefer to snack rather than sit down for a large meal. Although research shows that eating more frequently can help you lose weight, it’s not a requirement. Meal frequency is often confused with meal timing. Meal timing refers to the number of hours between your meals and snacks.
For example, you could eat two large meals a day with three hours between each one, or six smaller meals each day with two hours. Three meals per day are considered the standard, but some people do best with two large meals or six smaller meals. You can experiment with different meal frequencies to find what works best for you.
How Often Should You Eat?
Throughout the past few years, we’ve seen headlines proclaiming that six meals per day are better than three meals per day, while others show that three meals per day are better than six. The truth is, that both meal frequencies have been shown to have positive impacts on health, athletic performance, and weight loss. What is the best meal frequency for weight loss? Well, it depends on which eating approach you choose. Let’s take a closer look at each of these diet types.
- The 6 Meal Per Day Diet: Eating six meals per day gives you plenty of opportunities to eat enough calories to support your health and weight loss goals. You also have plenty of chances to include a wide range of nutritious foods in each meal, which is a good thing because some studies have found that people who eat a wider variety of foods tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI).
- The 3 Meal Per Day Diet: Eating three meals per day still gives you plenty of opportunities to include the foods you need for health and weight loss. It’s also been shown to increase the release of fat-burning hormones, so it’s a good choice for people who want to kick-start their metabolism and accelerate weight loss. It’s especially beneficial for people who struggle with blood sugar control or have diabetes. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that diabetic patients eat three balanced meals per day to help regulate their blood sugar and avoid sugar spikes.
Which Eating Approach Works Best for Weight Loss?
In general, meal frequency doesn’t appear to make a difference in weight loss, as long as caloric intake is sufficient. When it comes to achieving your health and weight loss goals, calories are king. You need to consume fewer calories than your body burns to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight.
If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s best to choose a meal frequency that allows you to meet your daily calorie needs at a manageable cost. If you consistently eat too few calories, you’ll end up slowing your metabolism, which can make weight loss more difficult.
If you’re eating six meals per day, you may need to consume more calories than someone eating only three meals a day. If you’re currently eating three meals per day, you may be able to eat fewer calories and still meet your weight loss goals. It may be helpful to meet with a dietician if you are unsure how many calories you should be consuming each day.
Other Eating approaches:
- Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. There are a variety of different intermittent fasting schedules, but the most common is the 16/8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8-hour window. This method has been shown to boost weight loss, increase fat burning, and improve insulin sensitivity.
- The Mediterranean Diet: The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits of people living in Spain, Italy, and Greece. It’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and legumes. This diet has been shown to improve heart health, increase weight loss, and decrease the risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
There are many different ways to lose weight, and each person’s body is different. The best way to find out what will work for you is to try different methods and see which one works the best for you.
Bottom Line of Should You Eat 3 Meals a Day?
When it comes to weight loss, the number of meals you eat each day doesn’t make a difference as long as you consume fewer calories than your body burns. When choosing between a three-meal per day and a six-meal per day diet, consider your lifestyle and how your current eating frequency may impact your daily calorie intake.
A better approach is to base your eating patterns on your individual metabolic needs and lifestyle. For example, you may prefer to eat 5 smaller meals per day or 1-2 larger meals. It’s important to listen to your body and adjust accordingly to achieve optimal nutrition and weight loss results.