Eating 6 meals a day for weight loss is probably one of the most popular advice almost all of us have heard at least once (but probably a lot more than that). But does it really work?
The 6 meals a day for weight loss method claims that eating more frequently throughout the day will keep your blood sugar in check, rev up your metabolism and also prevent extreme hunger.
Does eating 6 meals a day for weight loss actually work?
A study performed by the University of Ottawa on obese adults showed that increased meal frequency (6 meals a day) doesn’t lead to a significantly higher weight loss compared to eating the same food split into three meals.
Interestingly, another study found that eating six meals a day instead of three doesn’t increase fat loss or calorie burning. However, they did conclude that it made the participants want to eat more.
There have been other studies on the topic and as a general conclusion, there’s no conclusive evidence that meal frequency actually helps with weight loss.
Potential benefits of eating more frequently throughout the day
Now that we know eating more frequently won’t actually help us lose weight faster or boost our metabolism, are there any real benefits?
It turns out there are, especially for those who are having a hard time controlling their appetite. Longer intervals between meals can make you get hungrier and you’ll be more prone to overeat at the next meal. At least that’s what experts say.
Of course, this can’t be the case for everyone and I’ll use myself as an example here. If I eat a large meal that has enough protein in it (and some healthy carbs on the side), I won’t get hungry for a long time, at least 5-6 hours but maybe even longer. However, if I eat a light snack it certainly won’t keep me full for that long. So what you eat also matters, not just how much.
I’m not going to have the breakfast debate right now (that’s a tough one). Let’s just say reduced meal frequency is exactly how intermittent fasting works and there are various IF weight loss plans – for some of them, breakfast is lacking or optional.
Even if you’re not following a specific plan, I know some people are not hungry in the morning. AT ALL. So if you’re one of them, don’t force food in your body just because others say so. There are very few situations in which someone would need to eat forcefully and I would advise getting a medical opinion before trying something like this.
Can snacking be healthy?
Yes, it can! Even if you don’t snack 3 times a day, or every day, you might still feel the need to every now and then. Make sure you eat mostly unprocessed (or minimally processed) single ingredient foods and the portions are small.
It’s also a good idea to include some protein and fiber in your snacks, as these will increase satiety and make you feel full for longer. There are plenty of healthy snacks you can make in a pinch, but you can also eat simple foods like some sliced apple and peanut butter, for example.
If you’re still wondering if you should eat 6 meals a day for weight loss, there is no definitive answer. While meal frequency doesn’t have a significant impact on fat loss or metabolism, each of us is different so you should plan your meals to help you keep your appetite under control and prevent overeating. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution so a bit of experimenting might be required.