It can be really overwhelming trying to work out how much you should be eating in a day. Especially when there are so many mixed answers and studies available for reading, but most of the time they leave us more confused than when we started.
Some will feel the need to have fewer, larger meals whilst others would rather have more frequent, smaller meals. Either way, it’s possible to lose weight, as long as your diet is healthy and varied.
Well, without further ado, let’s jump in and find out how many meals you should be eating a day and what benefits this provides.
Do more frequent meals increase your base metabolic rate (BMR)?
Put simply, metabolic rate is the total number of calories your body burns over a period of time. Although, the idea that eating smaller, more frequent meals in an attempt to increase your BMR is sadly a myth.
Whilst it may be true that digesting a meal raises your metabolism slightly, it is purely to do with the thermic effect of food. What matters here is the total amount of calories you consume as this determines the amount of energy you expend through digestion.
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This then means that eating three meals a day that are all 800 calories will have the same thermic effect as six 400-calorie meals. That’s right, ladies, there is no difference whatsoever.
Can more regular meals help to reduce cravings and balance blood sugar levels?
Something you’ll read over and over again is that you should be eating little and often in order to balance your blood sugar levels.
Apparently, eating large meals is thought to cause rapid peaks and troughs in blood sugars. Whilst having little meals throughout the day would stabilize your blood sugar levels. However, none of these claims are actually supported by scientific studies.
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.
Having fewer meals is said to improve satiety, as well as reduce hunger and cravings. Therefore, eating little and often may be better if you’re someone who loves to snack.
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 earlier in the morning will lower your average blood sugar levels.
To have breakfast, or to not have breakfast?
You must’ve heard the famous phrase before, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”…
It has been dictated to us over many, many years that breakfast is an absolute must. Not only does it set you up for the day, but it boosts your metabolism to help you lose weight. In addition, studies have shown that those who skip breakfast are also the ones who are more likely to be obese.
Although this data does not prove that eating breakfast means you will 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 donuts on the go and takeout for lunch etc.
If you work on the basis that everyone knows breakfast is good for you, it’s then sensible to assume that those who have healthy food habits are more likely to eat breakfast. Although, it is worth noting that there is no scientific evidence to prove that breakfast kickstarts your metabolism and helps you lose weight.
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Breakfast may not help you drop a dress size, but it does benefit others elements of your health, such as your blood sugar. Consuming a high-calorie breakfast results in lower blood sugar levels than a higher-calorie dinner. Research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes found that not eating until midday caused blood sugar levels to rise after lunch and dinner.
Additionally, these effects are mediated by our body clock, also referred to as circadian rhythm. However, further study is required in order for us to fully understand how it works. Those suffering from type 2 diabetes should consider eating a healthy breakfast each morning to help regulate blood sugar levels.
Missing the occasional meal can have its upsides
Let’s talk about intermittent fasting, it’s trendy now and seems to be all the rage in nutrition these days. Intermittent fasting is when you eat at particular times and then fast between these periods.
With fasting, there are many different regimes you can follow. 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. In doing so, your body supposedly enters “starvation mode” which can cause you to lose muscle mass.
But, this is simply 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
- More control of cholesterol and blood pressure
- Lower glucose and insulin
Intermittent fasting also revs up a cellular clean-up process referred to as autophagy. This is where the body’s cells clear any waste products that build up and contribute to aging and disease.
The bottom line
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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