How Many Times a Day Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

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When it comes to losing weight, many people often think the less food they consume, the better. However, several studies and nutritionists say otherwise. Eating an array of foods several times a day (about 5 to 6 mini meals), has been shown to help people burn more calories and reach their weight loss goals.

Eating more meals throughout the day may increase your weight loss success.
Eating more meals throughout the day may increase your weight loss success. (Image: Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images)

Blood Sugar and Metabolism

Many experts recommend eating five or six small meals a day instead of the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One reason for this is frequent eating keeps a person’s energy up. Blood sugar naturally drops after every three hours, but eating throughout the day keeps blood sugar levels steady. Also, eating every few hours means the metabolism has to keep working to convert nutrients into energy. A hard-working metabolism torches calories, which can lead to weight loss.

Eat five or six meals a day to keep your energy up.
Eat five or six meals a day to keep your energy up. (Image: Warren Goldswain/iStock/Getty Images)

Expert Insight

Experts have proven the health—and weight loss—benefits of eating every few hours. Dan Benardot, a nutrition professor at Georgia State University, studied the eating habits of female athletes to determine how eating several times throughout the day affected them. His team found that the women who ate their total day’s worth of calories in three large meals, as opposed to five or six smaller meals, tended to have higher body fat percentages and lower energy levels. Benardot further found that consuming a large meal after having gone without food for an extended period of time lowers muscle mass and increases fat mass.

Female athletes that eat 5-6 small meals per day tend to have lower body fat percentages than those that eat three larger meals.
Female athletes that eat 5-6 small meals per day tend to have lower body fat percentages than those that eat three larger meals. (Image: Hongqi Zhang/iStock/Getty Images)

Breakfast

The first meal of the day is key to your health goals if you're trying to lose weight. In a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, participants who got 22 to 55 percent of their total daily calories at breakfast gained an average of 1.7 pounds over the course of four years. However, those who ate 11 percent or less of their daily calories in the morning gained almost three pounds a year. Additionally, a University of Massachusetts study found that people who skip breakfast are about 4.5 times more likely to be overweight than those who eat their morning meal.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day when you're trying to lose weight.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day when you're trying to lose weight. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Sample Diets

Including breakfast, Jorge Cruise, creator of the 3 Hour Diet, recommends that people eat every three hours to keep their metabolism at work and their blood sugar levels steady. His plan is just one of several ways in which people can eat regularly to lose weight. The program features meal plans for just about every palette, and people who follow the diet eat at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 6 p.m. Meat lovers might have filet mignon for dinner, while the heart-healthy dieters might enjoy chicken teriyaki.

You can still eat some of the foods you love.
You can still eat some of the foods you love. (Image: Jacek Chabraszewski/iStock/Getty Images)

Cholesterol Benefits

Eating at least six times a day can also lower cholesterol. In 2001, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England surveyed more than 14,000 people between the ages of 45 and 75. Their results, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that those who ate six or more meals a day had about 5 percent lower cholesterol concentrations than those who ate less often.

Eating six times per day can also lower cholesterol.
Eating six times per day can also lower cholesterol. (Image: Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images)

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