When it comes to weight loss, science shows that it’s diet — not exercise — that helps you drop the most weight. That might be the case, but ask five different people their opinions on how many times a day should you eat and you’ll get five different answers.
Never eat after 7 p.m. Avoid gluten. Eat a ton of carbs. Only eat carbs the second Monday of every month that ends in -y.
And the most pervasive belief: You have to eat six small meals a day to keep your metabolism on fire throughout the day. But is that really true? Studies published in the journals Obesity and The British Journal of Nutrition found that eating six meals a day doesn’t have much influence on your metabolism or hunger throughout the day.
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"Smaller meals are less likely to trigger a satiety response, instead keeping you hungrier over the course of the day," says nutritional advisor and author Mike Roussell, PhD, told Men’s Health. "This may make you more likely to overeat over the course of your six or more meals, putting you in a caloric surplus. You’re better off having fewer, more satisfying meals as a method of calorie control."
So, how many times a day should you eat to lose weight?
Bigger meals eaten less frequently (like the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner) is shown to reduce hunger and increase satiety (fullness) over constantly grazing throughout the day.
Eating only during certain periods of the day — like between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. — is known as intermittent fasting (IF) and is shown to have a positive impact on blood glucose levels, along with other health benefits. Eating six small meals, on the other hand, doesn’t show the same benefits.
Ultimately, studies show that weight loss comes from calories-in, calories-out — or how many calories you eat in a day compared to how many you burn. So, find out the ideal number of calories you should be eating a day for weight loss and try to meet that, no matter if you prefer eating six times a day or only three.