You've probably heard that you need to eat 5-8 meals per day to get fit and lose weight. it is everywhere: on TV, on the internet, in magazines, etc. Eating a large number of meals seems to be the secret behind the weight loss of many people.
But is it really? Do you think they lost weight because of the number of meals that they ate? So, going from 3 meals per day to 6 meals per day will make you lose weight?
This multiple meals per day concept has become a bit of a fad, so let's get real about this, and help you solve the mystery of multiple meals. Let's delve into this, to really understand the facts.
Multiple meals per day are recommended for 2 main reasons:
- Having long gaps between meals can lead to craving, and consumption of unhealthy foods.
- The metabolic advantage: more often you eat, more calories you burn. We'll explain this in a bit.
Let's talk about the metabolic advantage. Basically, your body burns calories trying to digest food. Now, by increasing the number of meals that we eat, we are trying to 'cheat the system' by making the digestive system work more, and thus burn just a few more calories.
Now the question is how many more calories does your body burn by eating multiple meals per days. The fact is, not significantly more. Most people's daily calorie burn (by Basal Metabolic Rate) ranges between 1300-1800 calories per day. By increasing the number of meals from 3 to 8, you probably increase it incrementally. Let's be generous and say 5%. That is a total of 60-100 calories more per day.
To lose 0.5 kg per week, your body needs to have a deficit of about 500 calories per day. So, in the bigger picture of calorie burning and weight loss, 60-100 calories per day is not enough to make a real dent in your weight loss!
So, even if you do eat 6 meals per day for the 'metabolic advantage', the key to weight loss is to make sure that there is enough calorie deficit. So, one of the keys is that over a larger number of meals, you need to eat fewer calories. Doesn't that seem tougher? It might or might not be. The real key here is to control your cravings and your mind. Even with 6 meals a day, you could land up craving unhealthy foods, so its not a fool proof method to cut cravings & calories.
The last point that we have about the 6 meals per day diet is somewhat cultural. We are Indian, and from the land of Yoga. From the latest research, it is found that Yoga principles seem to be deeply scientific. Even Yoga recommends eating after an interval of 4 hours, which leads to 3 meals a day. The reason being the time your body needs to complete the full digestion process, before you start another one.
We are not Yoga experts, but we believe that it must have some healthy relevance.
So, is 6 meals too many? How many meals are you eating?