How Many Meals Per Day Should You Eat to Lose Weight?
There is nothing more confusing and conflicting when it comes to weight management that the frequency of meals and meal timing.
You might have read that you need to “eat every 2-3 hours to speed up your metabolism!” or that “One meal per day (OMAD) is the best way to lose weight!” This, that, and everything in between has been proposed and promoted, from fasting every other day (alternate day fasting or ADF), to skipping breakfast and more.
When we look at the research evidence that is available, we see one common theme…and that is IT DOESN’T MATTER!
Studies show that when 3 meals per day are compared to 6 meals per day, participants lost the same amounts of weight. The catch? – both groups ate the same amount of calories, which was less than what they need to maintain their current weight.
Sure, there are studies which may show a slight positive benefit to “Intermittent Fasting” protocols, but others show that eating breakfast every day is associated with more weight loss!
Again – the common theme being that as long as one consumes fewer calories, they will lose weight regardless of how many meals they eat.
That being said, the more important question is:
“How many meals per day do I need to help me eat fewer calories so that I can lose weight?”.
“How many meals per day will help me to not be so hungry so that I don’t eat too many calories?”
These are much better questions, and may vary between individuals. Just as there are “morning people” and “night owls” YOUR weight loss plan may look different than someone else’s (this is why I advocate for individualized, tailored weight loss strategies that fit each individual’s lifestyle and personal preferences).
There is also evidence that eating more frequently leads to more hunger, more high calorie snacking, and more mindless eating. Eating very few meals can work for some people, but it is often unsustainable for very long, and can lead to excessive hunger and overeating/binging, which leads to weight gain and feelings of guilt/depression.
My approach? The “radical” 3 meals per day, as evenly spaced out as possible, with no snacks in between (which by the way, can even be considered “intermittent fasting”), and then OBSERVE. After a week or so we should have a good idea how to modify things for each individual to get them on a HEALTHY, SUSTAINABLE and ENJOYABLE weight loss plan.
Sheldon Bjorgaard, BSc., ND (Naturopathic physician)