By doing a cool little poll on my Instagram account, I was able to decide on my next blog post. The people have spoken! They want to know about meal frequency!
What is meal frequency?
This typically refers to the amount of time between meals, as well as the amount of meals a day. Over the years, there has been a constant battle between "bro-science" and actual science. One is based on feel and one is based on hard evidence that something is true or not.
The normal stamp of approval for this "bro science" when referring to meal frequency is the idea of consuming SIX small meals a day, all with about TWO to THREE hours between. The idea is that this increases your metabolism... So long as the body is constantly working to break down food, you are "making the metabolism work". Is there some legitimacy to this? Maybe.
When we look at real science, it doesn't matter! Meal frequency and timing are extremely low on the totem pole for weight loss or any type of metabolic effects. What really matters is the total intake. How much food are you actually consuming. The body doesn't have an internal timer that says, "Oh, it's been more than three hours, time to slow down the metabolism."
In a study that compared the two (high meal frequency, vs low meal frequency), all participants were on the same low calorie intake. One group ate 6 meals a day, 3 being meals and 3 being snacks. The other had 3 bigger meals. Again, both groups were still eating a low calorie diet, they just got to the total calorie amount differently. However, both groups lost around the same amount of weight and body fat. The difference in the meal frequency had no influence on the results. There was even the idea that the increased meal frequency would increase compliance due to the fact of keeping hunger at bay. However, this didn't make any difference in the hunger hormone ghrelin, that controls your hunger signals. The individuals eating larger meals were able to regulate their hunger just fine. With results from this study, you can see that the meal frequency didn't matter. It all came down to the amount of calories that were being consumed.
If you're trying to lose weight, you don't have to eat a million meals from a tupperware. You just need to monitor your caloric intake in way that creates a deficit for you. That's literally all that happened with this study.
So for all of the bro-scientists out there that think more meals = more weight lost... All you did was create a caloric deficit by eating smaller meals in the day. That could easily be achieved by just eating three bigger meals.
*In my opinion, larger meals increases compliance*
It comes down to your preference. If you operate better off of a ton of small meals, then by all means do that. If you enjoy eating larger meals, less throughout the day, then do so! It may even be dictated by your schedule.
Whatever is going to increase your compliance will help you. If the goal is weight lost, then you need to make sure that you are still fitting within that caloric deficit. If you are looking to gain weight, you need to be in a surplus.
Those are the only rules in this game. How will you play?