Should You Eat Three Big Meals Or Many Mini-Meals?

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Should You Eat Three Big Meals Or Many Mini-Meals?
Photo – leeroy –

Is there an ideal meal frequency to optimize weight loss and to promote metabolism? This is one of the most widely debated topics in the nutritional world. Conventional wisdom suggests the need to eat smaller amounts more often to control hunger pangs and to burn off calories. This waistline-friendly dieting approach has been promoted by many fitness gurus.

The other side of the debate argues that eating smaller meals has no effect on metabolic rate and weight loss. This side forwards the value of eating fewer than three meals which may be best in terms of controlling calories.

Let’s take a look at several studies to determine how often you should really eat to achieve your weight management goals. It’s about time to cut the pseudoscientific, marketing nonsense and get down the conflicting approaches to meal frequency: eating a few large meals versus eating more frequent smaller meals.

Eating More Frequently Will Increase Your Metabolism?

Several studies posited why people should eat more frequently, which may offer benefits by decreasing hunger and food intake. In April 2015, the Journal of the Academy of the Nutrition and Dietetics published a study that revealed the link between a larger number of small meals and improved diet quality and lower body mass index in 2,696 American and British men and women aged 40-59 years. [1] The authors highlight the implications of their study’s findings for behavioral approaches to controlling the obesity epidemic.

One study confirmed the effect of increasing meal frequency on decreasing hunger and improving appetite control at subsequent meals. This study also linked increased meal frequency to the preservation of lean body mass in athletes. [2] Another study underlines the positive impact of the frequency of meals on cholesterol and insulin levels. This research affirmed the metabolic advantages of increased meal frequency. [3]

Eat Like A King Two To Three Times A Day?

Despite the availability of scientific evidence that eating more often is associated with more opportunities to burn calories, research suggests why eating more often may not be optimal or does not enhance metabolism. In 2013, the journal Physiology and Behavior published a study that showed the effectiveness of skipping breakfast as a means for controlling calories. [4] According to the study, people who skipped breakfast only consumed about 400 fewer calories for the entire day compared to when they had breakfast.

Eating larger breakfast was found more beneficial for type 2 diabetic patients than six smaller meals during a day. This study assessed the effect of six meals and two meals a day on the patients’ body weight, hepatic fat content, insulin resistance and beta cell function of the subjects. [5]

In April 1997, the British Journal of Nutrition reported on the inverse relationship between a “nibbling meal pattern” and avoidance of obesity. The article assessed pertinent studies and found out that there was very weak epidemiological evidence on the metabolic advantage of nibbling meal patterns. [6] This very same journal also published a 2010 report that downplayed the correlation between increasing meal frequency and body weight loss in individuals who had a two-month energy-restricted diet. [7]

Which Eating Pattern Is Better For Everybody?

Based on the studies discussed above, it is safe to conclude that meal frequency is not the final determinant for speeding up metabolic rate or aiding fat loss. Some individuals are grazers by nature while others folk eat by the clock. People need to have a great food plan and to ensure that their calorie intake is controlled. The better approach is to go by how one feels and to find a meal frequency that is in sync with your nutrition plan.

There is no one best meal frequency because fat loss is attributed to total calories and macronutrient composition. [8] Probably the best idea for timing your meals is to eat only when truly hungry, stop before you are “stuffed”, and repeat the first two indefinitely.

Further Reading:

Super Chart Of Ways To Boost Your Metabolism For Increased Energy And Natural Weight Reduction

Mindful Eating – Suddenly, You Have Power Over Food

10 Ways You Can Boost Your Metabolism Plus 10 Metabolism-Boosting Foods

6 Superb Morning Rituals To Improve Metabolism


[1] Aljuraiban GS et al. The Impact of Eating Frequency and Time of Intake on Nutrient Quality and Body Mass Index: The INTERMAP Study, a Population-Based Study.

[2] La Bounty PM et al. March 16, 2011. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency.

[3] Jenkins DJ et al. October 1989. New England Journal of Medicine. Nibbling versus gorging: metabolic advantages of increased meal frequency.

[4] Levitsky DA and Pacanowski CR. July 2, 2013. Effect of skipping breakfast on subsequent energy intake.

[5] Kahleova H et al. April 9, 2014. Diabetologica. Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study.

[6] Bellisle F et al. Meal frequency and energy balance.

[7] Cameron JD et al. April 2010. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet.

[8] Tom Venuto. 2008. The Body Fat Solution: Five Principles for Burning Fat, Building Lean Muscles, Ending Emotional Eating, and Maintaining Your Perfect Weight.

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