When trying to work out how much food you should be eating in order to lose weight without starving, many of us can fall at the first hurdle. The majority of this is down to the amount of mixed information available online with one telling you to eat three big meals a day, whilst others tell you little and often is the best way. Before you know it, you’re more confused than you were to start with.
The fact of the matter is, it’s possible to lose weight either way, as long as your diet is healthy, varied, and paired with exercise.
So, let’s stop talking about it and get straight to it and find out how many meals you should be eating a day and what benefits there are to gain.
Does eating little and often boost your base metabolic rate (BMR)?
Metabolic rate in the simplest terms is the total number of calories your body burns over a period of time. However, the idea that eating smaller meals on a more frequent basis in an attempt to increase your BMR is merely a myth.
Whilst it’s true that digesting a meal causes your metabolism to raise slightly, it is purely to do with the thermic effect of food. What really matters is the total number of calories you consume as this determines the amount of energy you expend through digestion.
So, on this basis, that means eating three meals a day that are all 800 calories will have the same thermic effect as six 400-calorie meals. Ladies, you heard us correctly, there is no difference whatsoever.
Many studies have compared eating smaller meals versus larger ones, but they revealed that there wasn’t any significant effect to either metabolic rate or weight loss.
Do regular meals help to reduce cravings and balance blood sugar levels?
Something you’ll read over and over again is that you should be eating little and often in order to balance your blood sugar levels.
It’s said that eating large meals is thought to cause rapid ups and downs in blood sugars. While little meals throughout the day would stabilize your blood sugar levels. Although, none of these claims are actually supported by any scientific study.
The research there has been revealed that those who ate fewer, larger meals had lower blood sugar levels. As much as there may have been the occasional bigger spike in blood sugar, overall, the levels were much lower. This is essential for those who suffer from high blood sugar as this can lead to further health complications such as diabetes.
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Having fewer meals is said to improve satiety, as well as reduce hunger and cravings. Therefore, eating little and often may be better if you’re someone who loves to snack.
Breakfast plays a very important role when it comes to controlling your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that having your largest meals of the day earlier in the morning will lower your average blood sugar levels.
Are you a breakfast lover? If not, you should be
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”… everyone has to have heard this at least once before, likely from a parent or grandparent when they were trying to convince you to eat your cereal.
It has been dictated to us over many, many years that breakfast is an absolute necessity. Not only does it set you up for the day, but it boosts your metabolism to help you lose weight. Additionally, studies have shown that those who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese.
Hold your horses though, this data does not prove that eating breakfast means you will lose weight. It is making a suggestion that eating breakfast could be associated with a lower risk of obesity. Now, this is likely due to the fact that breakfast skippers tend to be less health conscious. It’s a diet of donuts on the go and takeout for lunch etc.
If you work on the basis that everyone knows breakfast is good for you, it’s then sensible to assume that those who have healthy food habits are more likely to eat breakfast. Although, it is worth noting that there is no scientific evidence to prove that breakfast kickstarts your metabolism and helps you lose weight.
Eating a healthy breakfast isn’t going to be the only answer to your weight loss prayers, but it does benefit other elements of your health, such as your blood sugar. Consuming a high-calorie breakfast results in lower blood sugar levels than that a higher-calorie dinner. Research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes found that not eating until midday caused blood sugar levels to rise after lunch and dinner.
Additionally, these effects are mediated by our body clock, also referred to as circadian rhythm. However, further study is required in order for us to fully understand how it works. Those suffering from type 2 diabetes should consider eating a healthy breakfast each morning to help regulate blood sugar levels.
Skipping lunch once in a while is okay
Let’s talk about intermittent fasting, it’s trendy now and seems to be all the rage in nutrition these days. Intermittent fasting is when you eat at particular times and then fast between these periods.
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With fasting, there are many different routines you can follow. For example, you may eat for 5 days and then fast for two days or only eat between certain hours such as midday until 8 pm. In doing so, your body supposedly enters “starvation mode” which can cause you to lose muscle mass.
But, this is simply not the case.
Studies into short-term fasting have shown that metabolic rate can increase in the beginning, but after a prolonged period, it goes down. Although, fasting does have several health benefits, including:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Better control of cholesterol and blood pressure
- Lower glucose and insulin
Intermittent fasting also kickstarts a cellular clean-up process referred to as autophagy. This is where the body’s cells clear any waste products that build up and contribute to aging and disease.
So, what we’ve managed to establish is that it doesn’t matter whether you eat three larger meals or six smaller meals; it’s the total number of calories that makes the difference when it comes to weight loss.
Eating little and often doesn’t help to improve your blood sugar either. We’re just so used to hearing the mythical ideas that they must be true… wrong! If we’ve learned anything, it’s that eating fewer meals is better for you and your blood sugar.
Ladies, if you take away anything from this, let it be this; eat when you’re hungry, stop once you’re full.
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