Have you ever been asked how many meals should you eat per day? Or read a fitness magazine dictating the number of meals you should eat? And talked with friends about their meal frequency? The normal response I hear is “I eat small regular meals to speed up my metabolism”.
The Meal Frequency Fairy Tale
I used to believe the same theory and followed this way of eating for 2 years because this was the normal thing to do with the knowledge and current research at that time.
However, I never questioned too much ‘why?’ I knew all the best fitness pros did the same so I believed I should too if I wanted to look lean, trim and have a set of chiseled abs with a lightning fast metabolism.
I would have 5-6 meals each day, spaced apart every 2-3 hours. It sounds crazy now but I was dedicated and I would do just about anything to get me to my goal. The results did show and I was enjoying the process. I saw what I was after looking back at me in the mirror.
Although, when I was away from the kitchen and working or out all day it would stress me out because I knew I might miss a meal and that it would ruin my whole day, therefore putting me in a crappy mood. I would be angry with myself for not pre-planning and being ready for the unexpected to happen. I’d often think about how I have wrecked my progress and how it set me back and I would say ‘Screw it – I might as well right the day off and eat whatever I want’. Sometimes I did, I was only human.
I realised eventually this was not sustainable long term. There had to be another way that would suit my lifestyle easier and not cause the poor outlook I had with my diet that was only going to get worse if I didn’t address this now.
I came across a scientist who debunked the whole ‘more meals cause an increase in calories burnt’. It was just what I was hoping to find; another way while still chasing after my goals. The relief I felt! I no longer had to pre-cook meals in Tupperware and eat them in unsociable situations, for example when going out, where people would order food while I’d eat the same dry cold lifeless meals.
This doctor in nutritional science explained that eating more smaller meals regularly can make you hungrier – the last feeling anybody wants when eating fewer calories.
Consequently, this would trigger those cravings to binge and the endless convincing myself that I needed a diet break when in reality I needed to change my approach to eating and factor in my lifestyle and personal preferences in mind.
The truth is, eating small meals more often can suit people if they have a lot of calories to consume and like eating recurrently. It depends on the individuals goal and their preferences. Though no one likes hearing that answer it’s fact.
Another important matter to mention is tying your beliefs to the method to why you are seeing results. Eating 6 meals per day is not the reason you are losing fat, I promise it has nothing to do with how fast you burn calories like it was sold.
Let’s say person A is eating 2600 calories per day spread out across 6 meals.
2600 divide by six = 433cals, rounded down is 430 calories.
Take person B who is on the same amount, however, prefers to eat 3 meals. He enjoys a bigger meal and hasn’t got time to eat every 2 hours.
2600 dived by 3 = 866, rounded up 870 calories
What do you spot…
They both take in the same total number of calories.
The body cannot tell the difference. It knows input vs output put quite simply. Over the course of the day, they’ve eaten the same intake and provided the calories are aligned with their goal(s) whether that’s losing or gaining weight, they are on track.
So, if you are still following this way of eating that’s cool. As long as you know there is another way that is more practical to daily living and work life, yet allows for you to be the boss and set rules.
There is no right or wrong in this instant, so don’t ask nor search for one. You will be wasting your time, which can be spent making progress. Go with what you prefer doing that reduces stress and see yourself following in the next year.
You and I are different. I might find your ideal situation not suited to me and vice versa.
As I got told recently by a friend:
‘Just do you and you are winning!’