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Eat Six Small Meals a Day Instead of Three Big Ones
By Anahad O'Connor. Published in the New York Times.
Link to the original newspaper article.
The notion behind eating smaller, more frequent meals is simple: spreading out one's daily calories over six meals stimulates the metabolism, keeping it going at a faster pace and thereby burning more calories.
Some studies have found modest health benefits to eating smaller meals, but often the research involved extremes, like comparing the effects of two or three large daily meals with those of a dozen or more snacks.
Six meals, according to some weight-loss books and fad diets, is a more realistic approach.
But don't count on it. As long as total caloric and nutrient intake stays the same, then metabolism, at the end of the day, should stay the same as well.
One study that carefully demonstrated this, published in 2009 in The British Journal of Nutrition, involved groups of overweight men and women who were randomly assigned to very strict low-calorie diets and followed for eight weeks. Each subject consumed the same number of calories per day, but one group took in three meals a day and the other six.
Both groups lost significant and equivalent amounts of weight. There was no difference between them in fat loss, appetite control or measurements of hormones that signal hunger and satiety. Other studies have had similar results.
For a more reliable metabolic boost, studies show, try exercise.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There is no solid evidence that six small meals a day instead of three will speed metabolism.
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Disclaimer: As a Health Coach, I will never attempt to diagnose, treat, make claims, prevent or cure any disease or condition. I advise my clients that Health Coaching is not intended to substitute for the advice, treatment and/or diagnosis of a qualified licensed health care professional.