When it comes to working out how much you should eat in a day, it can be really difficult to determine what is correct. This is then made to feel even more confusing because there are many studies that show mixed results, leaving it unclear as to what you should do.
For some, you’ll feel like you need fewer, larger meals whilst others prefer more frequent, smaller meals. It’s perfectly possible to lose weight either way, as long as your diet is healthy and varied.
Let’s get to it and see how many meals you should be eating a day and what benefits this provides.
Can more frequent meals increase your BMR (base metabolic rate)?
Metabolic rate is the total number of calories your body burns over a certain time period. However, the suggestion that eating smaller, more frequent meals in an attempt to increase this is merely a myth.
Whilst it is true that digesting a meal raises your metabolism a little, this phenomenon is purely the thermic effect of food. Although, the total amount of calories you consume will determine the amount of energy you expend throughout digestion.
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So, eating three meals a day that are all 800 calories will have the same thermic effect as six 400-calorie meals, there is quite literally no difference.
There have been many studies to compare eating smaller meals versus larger ones, but they concluded that there were no significant effects on either fat loss or metabolic rate.
Do more regular meals help reduce cravings and balance blood sugar?
One statement that you’ll see time and time again is that you should eat little and often balance your blood sugar levels.
It is said that eating large meals is thought to cause rapid highs and lows in blood sugar. Meanwhile, the little and often method would stabilize your blood sugar levels throughout the day. However, none of these claims are supported by science.
The studies that have taken place 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.
Eating less often has been known to improve satiety, and reduce hunger and cravings. Therefore, eating little and often may be better if you’re someone who loves to snack. Don’t we all, ladies?
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 early in the morning will lower your average blood sugar levels.
Breakfast or no breakfast?
What is it we always hear? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day…
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 kickstarts your metabolism in order to help you lose weight. Additionally, studies have shown that the ones who skip breakfast are also the ones who are more likely to be obese.
However, this data does not prove that breakfast will help you lose weight, it’s just suggesting that eating breakfast is 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 a donut on the go and takeout for lunch etc.
Assuming that everyone knows breakfast is good for you, it’s then a sensible assumption to make that those who have healthy food habits are more likely to eat breakfast. However, there is no concrete evidence to say that breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and helps you lose weight.
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Even though breakfast may not help you shed pounds, it may help benefit others 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 fasting until midday caused blood sugar levels to rise after lunch and dinner.
Not only that, but these effects are mediated by our body clock, also referred to as circadian rhythm. However, further study is needed to fully understand how it works. Those who suffer from type 2 diabetes should consider eating a healthy breakfast each morning to help regulate blood sugars.
Skipping the odd meal can be a good thing
Now we’re on to the trending topic of intermittent fasting. It’s all the rage in nutrition these days. Intermittent fasting is when you eat at certain times and then fast between these periods.
There are many different types of fasting within this kind of regime. 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. By doing this your body supposedly enters “starvation mode” which can cause you to lose muscle mass. However, this is 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
- Lower glucose and insulin
- Better control of cholesterol and blood pressure
Intermittent fasting also kickstarts a cellular clean-up process known as autophagy. This is where the body’s cells clear any waste products that build up and contribute to aging and disease.
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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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