Meal Frequency Myths

This was a recent debate on instagram when we polled which was better 6 small meals or 3 large ones for fat loss? The response was very mixed. Here we will look at the debate a little closer.

The premise that eating small regular meals will somehow magically stoke your metabolism has been banded round for years. This is based on the calorie burning effect you are supposed to get from eating more frequently. The fact is this “thermic effect” (calories burned eating food) contributes to only a very tiny portion of the overall calorie deficit that day. It's not enough on its own to warrant fat loss. In fact one large meal of say 600 calories compared to a 300 calorie meal would in fact burn more calories. But the difference is negligible. 

On the other hand going long periods without meals or fasting has also been said as bad for you, or putting your body into “starvation” mode. Possibly hearing that skipping breakfast is unhealthy and may slow the metabolism. There is plenty of data out there to show that this isn't the case, Intermittent fasters have proved this for a number of years now (see Myself skip breakfast on a regular basis either fasting or just for ease with being able to crack on at work without the worry over eating.

Given that it takes usually 4-5 hours to digest a meal, the insistence on small and often is not that needed. However if we are speaking about people with poor insulin sensitivity or people who suffer with irregular blood sugar patterns then maybe a more frequent eating pattern will help stabilise this and improve insulin sensitivity.

Optimal frequency will almost always come down the the individual. So long as your calorie needs are matched to your goals and protein intake is sufficient, coupled with the right training, fat loss or muscle gain will happen. Someone's work pattern, eating habits, family and social life need to be taken into consideration, there may be times when trying to eat a meal just not seem realistic. The less stress required to structure your life around meals the better it will work for you. We would recommend starting at the 3-4 meal guideline and then manipulate this according to how you feel.

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