Three vs. Six Meals a Day
Does eating six meals a day when compared to three offer any further benefit in fat loss? The results of a 2010 study suggest the answer is “no”. See below for details.
In this study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers divided 16 obese subjects into two groups. Both groups followed a calorie-restricted diet (a reduction of about 700 k/cal a day) for 8 weeks.
The difference between groups (and I’m sure you’ve already figured this out) was that one group consumed three meals a day while the other consumed six (three meals and three snacks). That being said, the total caloric intake for each subject, regardless of what group they were placed in, still resulted in 700 fewer k/cal.
Before and after the 8 weeks, the subjects had their body weight, fat mass and lean body mass measured. They also had their blood analyzed before and after the 8 weeks for total peptied YY and ghrelin, which are hormones that help regulate appetite.
The results after 8 weeks showed that both groups lost body weight, fat mass and lean body mass. However, there was no significant difference between groups. Likewise, after 8 weeks there was no significant difference between levels of total peptide YY or ghrelin between groups.
Therefore, the results of this study would suggest that consuming six meals a day does not lead to further weight or fat loss, at least in obese subjects. That being said, we’ve written more about meal frequency on the LBC site (I’ve provided the link in the first comment of this post) and we generally suggest you split your daily caloric intake over several meals a day. Whether that’s three, four, five or six depends on how it best fits within your lifestyle.
Cameron, JD et al. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010. 103, 1098–1101.