A quick Google search will bring up pages upon pages of results that tell you that losing weight is really as simple as eating smaller meals more frequently. The theory is that your blood sugar will be more stable and your metabolism will even out but is that really the case?

In this article, we’re going to talk about whether or not all of the claims that you read on such pages are true or not.

The Studies

Based on a review of three separate sources, the claims seem to be negligible – The University of Ottawa did a study that concluded that even on a low-calorie diet, there was really no clear advantage to spreading your calories out over six meals instead of three; another study found that making the switch from three squares a day to six did not help one burn calories or lose weight; and a research review on whether or not meal frequency helps with weight loss yielded inconclusive results.

So Is There An Upside?

Since it’s clear that the number of meals you eat and/or the frequency in which you choose to consume them doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, what does? Cutting your calories. Regardless of whether you want to get all of those calories in three meals or stretch them over ten doesn’t matter, what does is that you cut them back.

That said, even though you aren’t burning extra calories or speeding up your metabolism by eating multiple meals, there are definitely some benefits to spreading your food intake out over the course of the day.

Less Hunger

When we’re hungry, we tend to overeat. The longer we go hungry, the more we’re going to want to consume to feel satiated (even if we don’t need it). Roughly three hours after you consume something, your blood sugar begins to drop; 4 hours and you’ve officially digested most if not all of that food. By the five hour mark, your blood sugar begins to tank and you’ll eat anything and everything in sight if given the opportunity.

Breakfast has always been touted as ‘the most important meal of the day’, and for the reasons mentioned above it’s a pretty solid statement – After you’ve been asleep all night, your body needs energy in the way of food in order to get back to functioning at full capacity. People who eat breakfast are not only likely to be thinner than their nonbreakfast eating counterparts, they’re also more likely to resist food cravings and get more nutrients (such as Vitamin B12, A, and D). Turns out that breakfast eaters might even be more likely to make better food choices; this seems to ring especially true when their breakfast includes some sort of protein like eggs, chicken, or yogurt.

By starting your day off right with a balanced meal and then continuing to munch on snacks and small meals every few hours, you’ll be providing your body with nutrients all day long and will be less likely to overeat by the time meal time rolls around.

Proper Snacking Tips

Of course, eating every few hours – especially if it’s something that you’re not used to doing – carries its own risks. Without a point of reference or any knowledge of how to count calories, you can easily overeat without even realizing that you’re doing it. There is no one-size-fits-all meal plan that will work for everyone, but making healthy choices and watching your portion sizes will go a long way to getting you started. Here are a few snack ideas:

  • Low-fat cheese and some cut up pieces of your favorite fruits (grapes and cheese go remarkably well together).
  • A mixture of your favorite vegetables (cut up into pieces, of course) with hummus, tzatziki, or guacamole.
  • A cup of Greek yogurt topped with a mixture of your favorite fresh berries (if you’re unable to get your hands on fresh, frozen works too).
  • A small handful of trail mix (ideally containing a whole-grain cereal, some dried fruits, and your favorite nuts; if you’re not able to find one that you like, make your own!).
  • A few whole-grain crackers with some low-fat cheese or nut butter.

These suggestions contain protein and fiber, both of which fill you up. They’re also nutritious so your body will be getting what it needs to get you through even the toughest of days.

Conclusion

While it doesn’t seem to matter when or how frequently you eat, what you’re choosing to consume when it’s meal time is what matters most; by sticking to nutrient-dense foods that will keep you feeling full until it’s time to eat again, you’re less likely to binge. Lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, and portion control are your friends – Once you’ve got a handle on that, the pounds should start melting away.

All of that said, if you’re someone who has a difficult time with portion control, three meals a day might be your better option.

How many meals a day do you consume and what sorts of foods do you choose to munch on when it’s time to eat? Let us know in the comments section below.

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