The subject of meal frequency has seen much debate among the nutrition experts since the past few decades. They all agree on one thing, though, that breakfast is essential and should comprise of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats since breakfast starts up your metabolism and provide the body with energy for the active day ahead.
Some of the nutrition and weight loss experts say you should eat ‘mini meals’ after every two to three hours, adding up to four to six times in a day. The supporters of this idea say that this can result in reduced cholesterol, promote weight loss, improve energy levels, boost the metabolism and also preserve lean muscle mass. This may sound good to hear but there is little evidence which suggests that this is all true. It is correct to say that eating mini-meals can help stabilize the blood sugar and energy levels but there is no proof that this plan can lead to weight loss.
Look at it this way, whether you eat 1800 calories spread over six meals (300 calories each) or 1800 calories in 3 meals (600 calories each), you will burn down the same 180 calories from digesting, assimilating and storing those nutrients. Studies actually say that eating little may result in not being satisfied and thus, hunger is not suppressed. You may not be too hungry snacking every two hours but then again you won’t be satisfied either. And that chronic, mildly sub-satisfied feeling is a constant stress to the brain, body, and mind. Once the mind remains dissatisfied, it stays fixated on the only thought that is food.
Also, it could be the other way round for some of us like time for the next meal already, according to the 6 meal plan and not even hungry as yet! Then what to do? Eat against your wishes or better to stick to your plain old three meals plan? Behaviorally, it’s just simply easier to overeat if you give yourself 6 times a day to do so. Eating three meals a day gives us more time to work, play, exercise or whatever it is that encompasses part of the day. We humans are animals and crave satisfaction when it comes to instincts like hunger. Using willpower may work some days but other days you might just end up losing the control over yourself. So, it makes sense to not put yourself under the stress of eating less when you want to have more or munching down another meal while you really aren’t looking forward to it.
It’s best to keep your life and your meal plans as simple and stress as possible. While we all understand the symptoms of the stress response, few know the underlying physiological mechanisms. Cortisol is the primary hormone responsible for the stress response and its main target is the metabolism of the body that is why it’s also called the ‘stress hormone’. This disruption of cortisol secretion may not only promote weight gain, but it can also affect where you put on the weight. Some studies have shown that stress and elevated cortisol tend to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area.
Thus, as discussed earlier rather than ‘mini meals’ and the anxiety that the plan brings, it’s best to follow a balanced and healthy lifestyle which focuses on factors such as resting metabolic rate, food intake, the amount of exercise and also the types of food consumed.