Is there an optimal meal structure for losing weight and keeping it off?
There doesn’t seem to be a simple answer to the question of meal-frequency. There’s the frequent mini-meal approach of bodybuilders, and the strategies of intermittent fasters (and everything in between). But you want to know what’s best. Is there one meal structure which is best for losing weight and keeping it off?
What are the meal frequency options available to you?
There are no rules about how often you eat. The golden rule for losing weight is to create a calorie deficit (either eating less than you burn, or burning more than you eat). And if you want to maintain your weight, you’ll need to take in as many calories as your body is burning. But once you’ve got your calorie balance sorted out, meal frequency doesn’t matter. You could eat three square meals a day, or graze throughout the day on little snacks. As long as you meet that calorie balance, you will move towards your body weight target.
The most common approaches are:
- breakfast, lunch, dinner
- fasting (usually a 16 hour fasting window, and an 8 hour eating window)
- frequent small meals (6-8 throughout the day)
- breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner
Which meal frequency is best for you?
The best approach is the one that fits with your lifestyle, appetite, and routine. Ask yourself a few questions before you decide on how you split your day’s calories out. Are you at home during the day, or at the office, or on the go? Do you feel hungry in the morning, or prefer to eat more later on? Do you like larger meals, or lots of smaller ones? How long can you go between meals before feeling just the right amount of hunger?
Is too often (or not often enough) good or bad?
Experts seem to agree that two meals per day is the minimum. And there’s no benefit to eating more often than every 2.5 hours. Apart from that, eat in whatever way suits your routine, body, and lifestyle best.
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