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3 Meals or 6 Smaller Meals – What’s Best for Fat Loss?

It’s time to bring up a hot topic in the world of nutrition.

How many meals should you eat for the BEST results?  Should you eat 3 traditional, breakfast, lunch and dinner meals?  Should it be 6 smaller meals?  Maybe somewhere in between?

fat loss adviceWell, there’s a general consensus that eating smaller, more frequent meals is best for fat loss and general health.

You’ll be more full.

You’ll better control your blood sugar.

You’ll better control your hormones.

And, at the end of the day, this means you’ll lose more fat and keep your muscle.  Sounds good to us.

But it is TRULY that simple?  If you eat the same number of calories spread out through multiple meals vs. eating just a few meals/day that magic bullet for fat loss?

Trying to lose fat can be REALLY confusing!

A friend from the University of Missouri — Dr. Heather Leidy — published her research in the journal, Obesity, asking this very question.  And Heather is no stuffy lab scientist who barely knows how to spell the word exercise.  She IS a smart scientist, but feels right at home in the gym training as well.

So let’s get to the results.

3 meals.  6 meals.  What’s best?

In this small study of just 27 overweight or obese men, subjects were assigned to "high" protein diets (25% of their calories) or regular protein diets (14% of their total calories).  Then, they were also divided into 3 meals/day (~5 hours apart) or 6 meals per day (2-3 hours apart).

The higher protein group DID report being more full throughout the day, in the evening, and later at night.  This isn’t surprising as there’s no doubt protein is more filing than either carbohydrate or protein. 

But, interestingly, the group randomly assigned to eat just 3 meals per day reported feeling more full than the group eating 6 meals/day

Hmmm, this is interesting.  For years and years, lay audiences, magazines, etc have suggested smaller, more frequent meals is the BEST approach.  Now Dr. Leidy’s research suggests otherwise.  Maybe the smaller, more frequent feedings is more than it’s cracked up to be.  And from her research it actually seems as if protein is the bigger "driver" when it comes to fat loss rather than how often you’re eating.  This certainly isn’t the final word on this, but for now from our real world data combined with the science that’s out there, we suggest two things:

  1. Make sure you eat protein with every single meal (and snack, if you eat snacks)
  2. Do what works for you.  For us that is smaller, more frequent meals — but our lifestyle allows that.  The key is to plan ahead so whether you’re eating 3 larger meals or 3 smaller meals + 2 snacks, they’re super high quality.

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