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Does how often I eat affect weight loss or weight gain?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

The total amount of calories you eat in one day is more important than how often you eat. Some people do better with three large meals and others lose more weight with in between snacks. It is important to figure out what works for you. Never allow yourself to get starving as that can lead to over eating. If you find you are hungry between meetings, small snacks will help keep you from getting too hungry. Some studies show eating six small meals boosts your metabolism.

Robert DeVito
Fitness

Meal frequency certainly can affect your weight loss or weight gain efforts.

By eating consistently throughout the day (every 3-5 hours) you will maintain your energy levels by maintaining consistent blood sugar levels. This will aid you in minimizing cravings and making unplanned/poor food choices.

Also, by maintaining consistent energy levels you are more prone to move more which will reward your weight loss efforts with a calorie burning boost.

Conversely, individuals who eat infrequently tend to eat much larger meals because they are generally much hungrier by the time they do eat and they have a propensity to make unwise food choices because their bodies drive for survival by feeding is pushing them to consume high fat/ high calorie feedings at that time.

In summary, to lose weight and fat while maintaining a higher metabolism you should eat consistently throughout the day.

IF the goal is weight gain in the form of muscle weight the same rules would apply except the total calorie intake would need to be ABOVE your body's maintenance level to insure new tissues could be created.

 

Absolutely.  How many meals you eat in a day will affect your metabolism.  You have probably heard to eat more smaller meals throughout the day to speed up your metabolism.  Well on the other side of it if your not eating enough throughout the day your metabolism will slow down.  It is always finding a balance throughout the day on how much you need to eat and when.  Simply put you want to eat 5-6 small meals a day between 2-3 hours apart.  This will give you the energy you need to keep your metabolism up so you won't gain weight as long as your burning more than you are eating.
How often you eat can play a major role in your weight loss efforts.

First of all, meal size is of utmost importance. I am sure you agree that eating large, frequent meals will lead to weight gain.

On the contrary studies have shown that eating small, frequent meals will help you lose weight due to a couple of factors:

Each time you eat, there is a small metabolic increase as your body works to digest and deliver the nutrients from the food throughout your body (this is especially true with proteins). This means that your body uses calories to digest calories! While the margin is really quite small, it is noteworthy.

Practically speaking, eating more often means that you are less likely to become overly-hungry and overeat at your next meal. Walking past the office vending machine is much easier if you just ate your balanced and nutrient dense afternoon snack (think low fat cheese stick, almonds, hard boiled eggs, cut-up veggies & hummus, fruit or some non-fat Greek yogurt).

Now there have been countless successful dieters who adhere to eating "3 well rounded meals" a day and I think that is great... finding a healthy meal plan that works for you is crucial. Most of my clients find that eating 5-6 small meals a day works best for them.

If you need help determining how meal frequency may help you with your weight loss effort, please don't hesitate to contact me!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.