It has been argued that if the caloric intake is the same, there’s really no difference between eating 3 meals a day versus 5-6. Yet, the majority of fitness enthusiast who have experienced a degree of success continue to swear by eating multiple meals. Why is this?
Having a structured diet where you are eating planned meals gives greater control over food choices and amounts. You’re less likely to randomly grab something if you have a plan. Also, by being in control of when and what you eat, it’s a lot easier to adjust and correct as needed to see desired results. Eating less frequently can for many leave open windows of time where snacking due to hunger, availability or just plain boredom is more likely. Going for too long without eating can also trigger overeating for many (along with less than ideal choices) when you do eat again. Fluctuations in blood sugar, energy, and hunger levels can definitely effect the choices we make. Eating more frequently shifts the control over those factors a bit more in our favor.
Finally, eating isn’t just about calories but about properly nourishing our body. In order to give the body the ideal amount of nutrients for optimal energy, recovery, performance, and health, our ability to digest, absorb and properly assimilate the foods we intake is a big factor. In most cases, the target amount of nutrients will be utilized a lot better when consumed over 4-6 feedings versus 1-2. The body can simply only do so much at one time. If you’re eating 2400 calories a day, what seems more ideal, eating 2-3 meals of 800-1200 calories each or 4-6 meals of 400-600 calories each?
Don’t be confused by reports stating that 3 meals of XXX calories divided in half to become 6 meals of XXX calories has the same effect on the body. That’s not comparing 3 meals to 6 meals, that’s comparing 3 meals to 6 half-meals. How different can it be when it’s the same thing? The practical truth is that our bodies need nourishment and meeting those needs consistently is a lot easier to accomplish for most people over a structured multiple meal plain of 4-6 meals. The more calories being consumed, the more meals many people find to be most effective.