Can You Lose Weight by Eating Small, Frequent Meals

You’ve probably been told, somewhere along the way, to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day rather than two or three large ones if you’re trying to lose weight. Is this a good strategy? According to a new study, this weight loss technique may not be as effective as previously thought. Here’s why.

Is Frequent Eating for Weight Loss a Myth?

In a study conducted at the University of Ottawa, two groups of participants ate the same low calorie diet for eight weeks. One group ate their meals six times a day, while the other group ate three times daily. At the end of the two month period, both had lost around five percent of their body weight – but the frequent eaters fared no better in terms of weight loss than the group who ate three times a day.

Why Small, Frequent Meals?

The idea behind frequent eating is that each small meal stimulates the metabolism to work a little harder, thus keeping it “primed” to burn more fat. Experts believe that small, frequent meals create something called the thermic effect of food which is the additional calories that are required to digest and process food after a meal. People who eat more frequently were thought to burn more calories by having a higher thermic effect of food.

This study suggests that small, frequent meals may not increase the rate of fat burning, but it doesn’t take into account another factor – appetite suppression and satiety. Eating small, frequent meals helps to keep blood sugar levels steady and can reduce hunger and the risk of binge eating. This is especially true if a person eats fiber and a small amount of protein with each small meal. Eating small, frequent meals is also a healthier option for people who experience indigestion after a large one.

Eating More Frequently: The Bottom Line?

Even though this study shows that eating more frequently doesn’t significantly boost the rate of fat burning; eating small, frequent meals may still be a better choice for some people. If you get hungry an hour after eating a meal, try eating smaller portions throughout the day without increasing the total number of calories you consume. Throw in some extra fiber and protein to increase satiety. If it works, keep doing it – but make sure you’re eating the same number of total calories. No cheating.

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