Meal frequency and size: what do you know

Meal frequency and size: what do you know

It is widely accepted in modern culture that people should divide their daily diet into three large meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner For optimal health. This belief stems primarily from culture and early epidemiological studies.

However, in recent years experts have begun to change their view, suggesting that eating smaller, more frequent meals may be better for preventing chronic disease and losing weight. As a result, more people are changing their eating patterns in favor of eating several small meals throughout the day.

Those who advocate eating small, frequent meals suggest this eating pattern can:

  • Improving satiety, or feeling full after eating
  • Increase metabolism and body composition
  • Prevent dips in energy
  • stabilization of blood sugar
  • Prevent overeating.

While some studies support these recommendations, others do not show any significant benefit. In fact, some research suggests that it may be best to continue eating three larger meals.

This is what the research says.

early Epidemiological studies She suggests that increasing the frequency of meals can improve blood lipid levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. As a result, many experts advise against eating fewer large meals per day.

Over the years, some studies have supported these findings, suggesting that people who eat small, frequent meals have better cholesterol levels than those who consume fewer than three meals a day.

In particular, one syllable 2019 study Compared to eating less than three meals per day or more than four meals per day, I found that eating more than four meals increases HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and lowers triglycerides while fasting more effectively. Higher levels of HDL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

This study did not note any differences in total cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It is important to note, however, that this is an observational study, which means that it can only demonstrate association, not causation.

Additionally, one review was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association Rotation It is concluded that more frequent food intake is associated with a lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to epidemiological studies.

There is a common idea that eating more meals can help with weight loss. However, the research on this is still mixed.

For example, one study Compared to eating three meals a day or six smaller and more frequent meals on body fat and perceived hunger. Both groups got enough calories to maintain their current body weight using the same macronutrient distribution: 30% of energy from fat, 55% of carbohydrates, and 15% of protein.

At the end of the study, the researchers noted no difference in energy expenditure and body fat loss between the two groups. Interestingly, those who ate six small meals throughout the day had increased levels of hunger and desire to eat compared to those who ate three larger meals a day.

Although calorie intake was controlled in both groups, the researchers hypothesized that those who ate frequent meals would be more likely to consume more daily calories than those who ate fewer calories.

Another great note results study She suggests that healthy adults may prevent long-term weight gain by:

  • eating less
  • Eat breakfast and lunch 5 to 6 hours apart
  • Avoid snacks
  • Eat the biggest meal in the morning
  • Fasting 18-19 hours throughout the night.

Moreover, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for 2020Because of inconsistencies and limitations in the current body of evidence, there is insufficient evidence to determine the relationship between meal frequency and body composition and the risk of overweight and obesity.

Does eating frequent meals boost metabolism?

Small, frequent meals are often touted as a comprehensive treatment for obesity. Many believe that eating every 2 to 3 hours can help boost metabolism.

Digesting food requires energy. This is known as Thermal effect of food (TEF). However, meal frequency does not appear to play a role in Increase metabolism.

In fact, some studies She suggests that fewer and larger meals may increase TEF more than eating more frequent meals.

Although the evidence supporting an increase in meal frequency in the general population remains mixed, many experts believe that eating smaller, frequent meals can benefit athletes.

according to International Society of Sports NutritionAthletes who follow a low-calorie diet may benefit from eating small, frequent meals with adequate protein as it can help Maintains lean muscle mass.

When prioritizing total daily calories, limited evidence suggests that meal frequency may be in athletes increase performanceIt supports fat loss and improves body composition.

People who eat more frequently are likely to have better diet quality. Specifically, those who consume at least Three meals a day They are more likely to eat more vegetables, greens, legumes, fruit, whole grains, and dairy products.

These individuals are also more likely to consume less sodium and added sugars than those who eat two meals a day.

Similarly, another 2020 study was published in British Journal of Nutrition He found that increased meal frequency – about three meals per day – correlated with higher diet quality.

The researchers found that the frequency of snacks and diet quality varied according to the definition of snacks.

Based on the studies presented, there is no concrete evidence to support one eating pattern over another. However, many of these studies also have limitations.

For example, there is no universally accepted definition of what a meal or snack consists of. This could have an impact on the results of the study.

With that said, both eating patterns can be beneficial as long as the primary focus is on healthy eating habits.

Who Should Consume Small, Frequent Meals?

A review was posted on Nutrition in clinical practiceHe states that some residents may benefit from six to 10 small, frequent meals. These include people who:

  • Early satiety experience
  • They are trying to gain weight
  • They have gastroparesis
  • You have gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or bloating.

If your goal is to lose weight, it’s important to keep your portion sizes in mind. Make sure to stay within your daily calorie needs and divide them by the number of meals you eat.

For example, if you need 1,800 calories to maintain your weight and choose to eat six small meals a day, each meal should contain about 300 calories.

Small, frequent meals often come in the form of ultra-processed foods and snacks that don’t contain many of the vital nutrients your body needs. Hence, it is essential to focus on the quality of the foods you eat.

Who should consume fewer and larger meals?

People who may benefit from three larger meals per day are:

  • Those who find it difficult to exercise portion control
  • Those who tend not to eat consciously
  • People who lead busy lives and may not have the time to plan and prepare several small, nutritious meals a day.

Again, keeping diet quality in mind and prioritizing whole foods is essential. Fewer meals mean fewer chances of getting the essential nutrients your body needs.

Although there is no strong evidence to support the importance of meal frequency, there is strong evidence to support the overall health benefits of a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025A healthy diet should:

  • Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk or dairy products
  • Include protein from various sources, including seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, and legumes.
  • Stay within your allotted calorie needs
  • Limit added sugars, cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats.

Evidence is mixed about the importance of food frequency. Although there is no strong evidence to suggest that one eating pattern is superior to the other, both can provide health and wellness benefits if you follow a healthy eating pattern.

Thus, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and which approach works best for you. Plus, if you have certain health conditions, one approach may benefit you over the other.

As always, consult your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet.

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