Obesity rates continue to grow and will be affecting more than two-thirds of Americans in the next 5-10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So eating for survival has done a 180 - and many now fear for their survival if they over-eat.
Through the years, we have seen recommendations from nutrition and diet science about what foods (and food group hierarchies) best suit our needs as a society. Advice on food choices and focused diets are very helpful, but what about “How Often Should You Eat?”
The most popular approach to the question of How Often Should You Eat (for general health and weight maintenance) has been to spread calories throughout the day by consuming 5-6 smaller meals. The thinking goes that you will feel less hungry at any particular time, and in turn you will tend not to over-indulge or eat in excess.
A study found in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows data on this approach. It's conclusion was that people who were of their ideal weight (and able to maintain their weight) reported eating more often than individuals who were overweight and obese.
How Often Should You Eat?
The overall approach is eat small meals and snacks around every 3- 3 ½ hours from the time of breakfast. This works to keep you sustained - which avoids greater levels of hunger, and thus limit overeating.
So if eating throughout the day with 5-6 smaller meals can benefit for weight maintenance, how does is measure up for weight loss?
According to a study done by Circadian Biologist Ph.D. Amandine Chaix, consuming meals 5-6 times throughout the day can aid in weight loss, but it needs to be meals that are healthy and portioned appropriately. It was found that if the foods were high-fat, sugar or highly processed, that the individuals still became obese. The complete findings verified that those ate in the 9-12 hour window with 5-6 smaller meals (that were properly portioned and low in processed, high fat, and high sugar) were leaner. “So, already being obese and switching to time-restricted feeding with healthier foods and portions, does create weight loss. That is powerful.” Chaix said.
The research of meal-timing shows further benefits in addition to those who want to lose weight and maintain their weight, especially as it relates to the consumption of protein. When spreading the protein consumption throughout the day, in smaller doses, the body is able to assimilate and use the protein for greater gains and recovery of muscle tissue. This can help maintain muscle loss during weight loss, and through the aging process.
How Often Should You Eat?
The answer is 5-6 smaller meals per day, spaced out every 3-3 ½ hours after the consumption of breakfast. Though you must also keep in mind, that for weight loss and maintenance, the number of calories at each meal still plays a very large role in this process.
If you are trying to lose weight, you need to consume smaller meals spread throughout the day, create a calorie deficit through portioned meals, and exercise appropriately 5-6 times per week. If you need assistance in implementing a meal plan and exercise regimen that will keep you eating throughout the day and exercising appropriately, Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix combines all of this in one package and you get a FREE Coach to help keep you on track and motivated.