Everywhere we look, the information is that we should eat small meals regularly, every three hours, in order to reduce body mass. Frequent meals are supposed to speed up metabolism, whereas, long breaks between meals are supposed to influence the lack of energy supply and store it in a form of fat. These statements have been said so many times and for such a long time, that we think they're obvious and we take them for granted. But is the consumption of 5-6 meals a day really necessary during slimming?
It turns out, that the hypotheses mentioned above are not justified in research. Majority of studies do not confirm the dependency between eating larger amount of small meals during the day and better results in body mass reduction, compared to smaller amount of meals with the same calorific content and macro nutrients ratio.
In the study below (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8383639) the scientists measured the influence of the frequency of the meals on the weight reduction and the tempo of metabolism.
The study was done on 14 obese women at the age of 20-58. The women were divided into two groups, both consumed 1,000kcal a day. The first group ate it in two meals, the other in three-five meals during each day. There were no significant differences between the groups with various frequency of eating meals.
Whereas, in this study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1905998 ) it was measured, how the frequency of eating meals influences the process of using nutrients and the consequences of energetic metabolism. Two men and eleven women took part in this research. The same amount of calories was served in two or seven meals a day. There were no differences in using nutrients between the two ways of nutrition.
There are no studies, which would point out larger efficiency of slimming with larger amount of meals a day. What's interesting, some scientific experiments suggest that better results may be achieved with fewer meals.
Of course, you should take under consideration the fact that scientific studies may include mistakes, which are caused by the conditions of experiments. Many of these studies were also done in a short period of time with the participation of small amount of volunteers. There was the comparison of 2 meals to 6-7 meals a day. Obviously, there are some intermediate solutions, such as 3-4 meals a day, which should be taken under consideration, too.
The necessity of consuming the meals regularly, every 3 hours, is often highlighted by the companies, which produce nutritions or deal with dietetic catering. For them it's business – you have to eat frequently. In reality, it's hard to eat every three hours because of organisation of time. And here comes the help of nutritions and companies, which will help you do that.
Now we know that neither eating more meals a day speeds up metabolism, nor does less meals cause slowing it down. In that matter, there were no significant differences in scientific research.
We should also take a closer look at other issues, such as the feeling of satiety or the level of satisfatcion. The significant difference may be caused by the influence of the amount of meals on appetite and satisfatcion after the meal. Reduction diet is supposed to be based on the negative calorific balance. Therefore, if you divide the lower amount of calories into 6 meals, you will get 250-400kcal per meal. Is a meal of the average size of 300kcal filling? Not necessarily. Consuming 6 small meals is usually connected with leaving the table hungry, irritated, dissatisfied. Such small meals often stimulate hunger rather than alleviate it. The worst thing which can happen to you during reduction is lack of satisfatcion from the eaten food. Then it's very hard to sustain such diet. As a result, people break down and snack, and the diet brings no results.
In a situation when you divide the same calorific amount into 3-4 meals, they will be bigger and more filling. There will be higher possibility of the influence on the feeling of satiety and joy of eating. Thanks to that, there is much bigger chance to stay on such diet.
It was confirmed in this study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20339363 . It turned out, that higher intake of protein leads to better feeling of satiety, and 6 meals caused lower level of satiety than 3 meals a day.
Of course, it's not a rule, which will be appropriate for everybody. For example, some women may feel better eating more smaller meals, because it would be hard for them to eat proper supply of calories in just three meals. They may feel less overeaten and function more efficiently having five meals a day. It is a highly individual matter.
To sum up, in research, there were no significant differences between small and big amount of meals during a day. Eating every 2-3 hours does not make metabolism faster. Low-calorific diets, which are based on many small meals rarely guarantee the feeling of satiety.