Does it matter when you eat?
Most meal timing advice claim that eating multiple small meals per day, can speed up our metabolism and thus help to lose weight faster. But is that true?
The theory behind these claims, is that by eating every few hours, our body has to work harder to break down the food, and that should speed up our metabolism.
It kind of makes sense right? But… it doesn’t really work for weight loss and I will tell you why.
A study from researchers from the University of Ontario, splits subjects into two dietary groups: three meals per day and three meals plus three snacks per day, with both in a caloric restriction for weight loss.
After eight weeks, researchers found no significant difference in average weight loss, fat loss, or muscle loss in between the 16 participants.
Another study from scientists at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, compared the thermic effect of food in a wide variety of eating patterns, ranging from 1 to 17 meals per day.
In terms of 24-hour energy expenditure, they found no difference between nibbling and gorging. Small meals caused small, short metabolic boosts, and large meals caused larger, longer boosts. By the end of each day, they balanced out in terms of total calories burned.
So we can conclude eating more, smaller meals doesn’t directly help or hinder fat loss.
Now, in terms of appetite, many variables are involved, including psychological ones, some people feel full by eating three larger meals a day, others may prefer to eat a variety of smaller meals a day. Either all, they are both effective for weight loss, as long as you stick to your daily numbers, your body will respond just as it should.
“How about eating late at night?
Is that food going to be stored as fat?”
Short answer.. No.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Chieti in Italy found that calorie intake in the morning or evening didn’t affect weight loss or body composition.
Another study from researchers at the of University of São Paulo in Brazil, showed that splitting calories into five equal meals per day eaten between 9 AM and 8 PM, eating all calories in the morning, and eating all calories in the evening didn’t affect weight loss parameters or body composition.
So, the bottom message is: You don’t need to have a strict meal schedule because WHEN you eat, doesn’t matter in the bigger picture.
Eat as often or not often as you like. Your routine should be as enjoyable and convenient as possible, this way you can stick to it, which is what truly matters in the end.