Three Big Meals Vs. Frequent Small Meals: What’s the Verdict?


ipshe debate on whether you should be eating three big meals a day or 6+ small ones to lose weight has been going on for years. In the 1980s, it was believed that eating small frequent meals is best, but recent research shows there isn’t much difference in the effect you achieve. It’s much more important how many calories you consume overall. If the amounts are the same, it doesn’t matter whether you do this via three big meals or half a dozen small ones. In fact, you can break it down into 12 small snacks or two large meals, and your weight loss rate still won’t be affected as there are much more important factors influencing it.

3 Big Meals or 6+ Small Meals: Research Past and Present

There are many studies that state eating six and more small meals a day helps you lose weight more efficiently (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition). This used to be the prevalent idea back in the 1980s and it’s still quite popular. The majority of modern diets are based on this principle and you will definitely see that eating many small meals a day is on the list of easy weight loss tips. And this tip should be there because it really helps people adjust to a new diet, especially if they cut their calories significantly.

You see, eating a few small meals at short intervals has some important metabolic advantages. Namely, this prevents your blood sugar from dropping and helps keep your energy levels stable even if you run on fewer calories overall. Back in the day, researchers also believed that ‘stocking’ your body with fuel more often helped keep your metabolism at its maximum efficiency at all times. Thus, they believed that you burned off fat faster when your body was busy digesting small amounts of food.

However, this belief doesn’t hold up against current research. As says a major study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a person’s basic metabolic rate (BMR) is affected by a variety of physiological factors. The frequency of your meals has very little influence on those, unless the person is starving.

This means that the question of whether you should be eating three or six times a day has only one answer:

Eat as many times a day as you like.

The point is to keep control of your overall calorie intake, and this is where the frequency of your meals might matter.

How Many Times a Day Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

Listen to your body to determine the optimal eating schedule for you. Your personal preferences as well as schedule are the only things that truly matter in this case.

Your eating habits can be influenced by your upbringing or even genetic predisposition. Some people simply are unable to eat large meals and feel comfortable because they don’t have much appetite. Others are compulsive eaters and should stay away from any food with the exception of highly specified hours. Otherwise, they might not be able to stop themselves from overeating.

There are many other cases in between that can be affected by anything from health issues to work schedule. The important thing to account for when deciding if you should eat three big meals a day or six small ones is your personal comfort with this plan. As long as your meals are healthy and your daily calorie intake is reasonably low, you’ll lose weight anyhow.


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