Maybe Eating Six Small Meals a Day Isn’t the Best Way
It’s all about calories in, calories out, right?
Two big meals vs. six smaller meals
A study compared the effects of a hypoenergetic diet (that means low calorie!) on two groups of people who have type 2 diabetes. One group had their calories spread throughout the day over six small meals; the other group ate all of their daily calories at breakfast and lunch.
Each group followed the diet for 12 weeks, and the diets were identical in macronutrient breakdowns (meaning one group wasn’t on a high protein diet while the other was on a high carb diet or anything like that).
Both groups lost weight, but the group who ate their calories in only two meals, breakfast and lunch, lost more. Fasting plasma glucose and C-peptide levels also went down in both groups, but again, more in the group where the calories were all in breakfast and lunch. Hepatic fat content (y’all, I seriously have no idea what it is, but the study measured it, so I’m telling you) also went down in both groups, but more in the group who ate the two meals rather than the six. Fasting plasma glucagon went down with the two meals scenario but increased in the group that ate their calories over six meals during the day. Oral glucose insulin sensitivity went up with both groups, but--surprise!--more in the group where all calories were spent during breakfast and lunch.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re trying to lose weight and improve the levels of all that stuff I just mentioned, maybe a low calorie diet in which you eat all of your food over breakfast and lunch, rather than spread out over more meals eaten all day, would have a better outcome.
However, as with any change in your diet, you have to talk to your doctor and maybe your dietitian, too. You need to make sure you’re still getting adequate calories and that your calories are coming from the right places. Check in to see if your health professional is on board with you trying this before you do anything!
The other thing to consider is if only eating two meals a day would work for you and your life. Do you work nights? Do you have young kids? Do you have a history of eating disorders? If you have extenuating circumstances that make mucking around with your diet too much untenable, stay away.
Another thing to know is that the folks in the study group were told to eat breakfast between 6am and 10am; they could eat lunch between 12 pm and 4pm. That would certainly give some leeway to how you were to structure your meals if you tried this; maybe eating a later lunch would help you feel less hungry in the evening and help you stick to this regimen.
So, hey, maybe consider trying something similar to this if you’re working on weight loss and improving your other numbers, just make sure to work closely with your doctor.
Do you practice self-care?