Written by Jen Keck
Why Multiple Meals is Still Best for Fat Loss
Those brave enough to mention that they eat 4 – 6 meals per day for fat loss on any social media site nowadays will undoubtedly get completely hammered for it.
“You don’t need multiple meals per day to get lean”, they will tell you, and they’ll inevitably link some science-y article for further proof.
Yes, there have been countless studies and experiments done to prove that eating more frequently does not fire up your metabolism, as it was once rumored to, and oh boy are people excited. People everywhere have ditched their tupperware with gusto, vowing to only eat two or three meals per day on their way to Shredsville.
So what’s the problem?
It’s not working
and at the risk of sounding pessimistic, it’s never going to work for most people for a few different reasons.
The two biggest factors that dictate most people’s ability to adhere to their nutrition plan are hunger and appetite. Going many hours without food, whether you think that is how humans are supposed to eat or not, does not come easy for most people because they are simply unable to:
- – control/ignore their cravings,
- – experience true hunger without freaking out, or
- – refrain from overdoing it when they do get to eat.
All of the above reactions are inarguably counterproductive to shedding el bees… or a pleasant existence, if you want to get right down to it.
Eating 1 – 3 meals per day that are conducive with fat loss is an advanced nutritional strategy, and going hours upon hours without food is too much to ask of many people, especially when you are combining it with other lifestyle choices that require willpower, such as turning down extra treats, sticking to a nutrition plan, and training consistently.
(Please notice the emphasis on the above words “that are conducive with fat loss”. It’d be easy to gorge yourself at an all-you-can-eat buffet twice a day and be happy as a lark, but you sure as hell won’t be getting any leaner.)
Hungry + angry = hangry.
My brother James is an athlete. He is a competitive downhill mountain bike racer, motorcross rider, snowboarder, you name it and he has probably raced it and done so extremely well. He has an excellent handle on calories, macronutrients, and knows exactly what it takes to get his physique extremely lean, which he has impressively demonstrated time and time again. On top of being an insane athlete, James is very busy. He has a demanding full time job, works part-time for our company, has a wife, dogs, and countless hobbies.
He would be a perfect candidate to whittle his eating down to two or three meals per day, but there is just one problem.
James hates being hungry.
Letting him get hungry enough will make him moody, and good luck getting him to focus on anything until you get some food in him.
There is no way James would survive and perform well eating 1 – 3 meals per day, regardless of what metabolism studies tell us. Simply put, he’d freak out and be unable to adhere to the plan. He prefers – and needs – to eat every couple hours to be happy, look good, perform well, and stay on track.
Low hunger threshold
I’ve competed in Figure, hit some impressive numbers powerlifting, stay in great shape all of the time, and coach a ton of nutrition clients to lean, mean physiques. I have followed extremely strict nutrition plans, complex nutrition and supplement protocols without batting an eye, and have gone 6 weeks without an off-plan meal over the holidays. I’m well versed in nutrition, and can probably tell you the macronutrient content in damn near anything in the grocery store.
The problem is that when I, much like James, get too hungry all bets are off. I seem to have a hunger threshold and when I hit it, you can rest assured I am eating everything in sight. Similar to most people, I lose control.
Because of this, it only makes sense that I toss multiple meals down the hatch per day (four, for those of you who care) because for me, it’s keeping me from gobbling down a bunch of stuff I don’t need simply because I got too hungry waiting for meal time to roll around.
The Weekend Binge
Those that are able to adhere to eating just a couple of meals per day typically all have something in common: the weekend binge.
When they do loosen their grip on the reins, which I have noticed is typically on the weekends, it is game on and it ain’t pretty. Trying to stay so strict and being so hungry all week gets the best of them and they plow through thousands of calories each weekend. I’m sure this isn’t a newsflash, but binging is not exactly a fat loss technique. Once Monday rolls around, it’s back to the struggle of eating just a couple of times per day, and the vicious cycle repeats itself over and over and….
The Solution: Eat to prevent over-eating
Do I believe that my metabolism will suffer if I choose to eat 1-2 meals per day instead of 4-5? Absolutely not, but eating multiple meals per day on most days helps keep my hand out of the cookie jar, and eating before that unquenchable hunger sets in is what keeps me lean.
My friends at Metabolic Effect have spoke about this theory quite a bit, and the idea is very simple:
Pre-emptive eating means that you
eat now to prevent overeating later.
It’s an easy rule that most people need to follow if they want to get to their goals.
Most people prefer multiple meals per day
In our questionnaire that we have all prospective nutrition clients fill out, it specifically asks, “How many times per day do you prefer to eat?”
We’ve reviewed hundreds of completed questionnaires, and nearly every answer is 4 – 5 times per day.
Regardless of what the studies say about meal frequency and metabolism, multiple (for the sake of this post lets say 4+) meals per day is still the best way for most people to lose fat, because many people won’t stay the course with anything less.
Can you eat 2 – 3 meals per day and lose fat? Sure!
Can you eat 5 – 7 meals per day and lose fat? You betcha!
It ultimately boils down to personal preference, but the most important factor is doing what truly works for you.
Trying to force yourself to whittle down your meals to 1 – 3 per day just because it’s what seems cool on the world wide web is dumb.
You shouldn’t be obsessing over your next meal.
You shouldn’t be binging when you do get to eat.
You shouldn’t be lightheaded, moody, shaky, or dizzy from refraining to eat.
There are better ways.
There is no shame in my game – I eat four meals per day, sometimes five if I’m feeling crazy. It keeps cravings at bay, keeps me satiated and on track, and makes me happy. It’ll probably do the same for you.