When it comes to setting up your weight loss or muscle building diet and figuring out how many meals you should eat per day, there is 1 common tip that you’ve definitely heard before.
That tip is that you should eat 5 or 6 small meals per day (once every 2-3 hours) instead of the more typical diet setup of 3 large meals.
The supposed reasoning for this meal frequency is that it will speed up your metabolism and create other benefits that will directly cause weight loss to be easier, better and faster. Plus, eating like this would also help prevent fat gain and help with building muscle.
By not eating 5-6 smaller meals would somehow slow down your metabolism, cause fat gain or create other things that would negatively impact your ability to lose fat or build muscle. But there is absolutely nothing showing any sort of significant benefit as far as speeding up your metabolism.
As long as your total calorie and nutrient intake is what it needs to be at the end of the day, how many meals you eat or how frequently you eat them doesn’t matter. Metabolisms don’t just speed up or slow down. Fat loss isn’t altered in any different way and muscle isn’t built differently.
So, if you are someone who has been eating every 2-3 hours even though it’s inconvenient for you, or eating 5-6 small meals per day, you can stop. It won’t prohibit your results in any way. You’ll still lose fat the same, build muscle the same and you’ll still get your body to do whatever you want it to do.
How Many Meals Should I Eat Per Day?
Before you make any changes to your diet, you may have noticed the use of the word “directly” in the paragraph above. The reason for that is because there are some indirect effects a certain meal frequency can have on certain people.
Let’s say you are a woman who is looking to lose a few pounds. Based on your current height and weight, activity level and genetics, it’s very possible that your calorie intake will need to be between 1200 – 2000 calories per day.
Now, let’s say you are a man looking to build muscle. Based on your current height and weight, activity level and genetics, it’s very possible that your calorie intake will need to be between 3000 – 4000 calories per day.
When Less Frequency Is Better
If the woman in our first example (who has a daily calorie intake between 1200-2000) tried to eat 6 small meals per day, each meal would contain between 200-300 calories. You’ll never feel full. You’ll never feel satisfied. You’ll always be hungry. You’ll always be checking the clock waiting for the next meal to come.
When your calorie intake is fairly low, which is typical for many women with any goal and many men looking to lose weight, trying to eat 5-6 meals a day is borderline impossible.
When More Frequency Is Better
Let’s look at the guy in our second example. With a daily calorie intake between 3000-4000, trying to eat 6 small meals a day would result in 500-600 calorie meals. For someone with a higher calorie intake, a higher meal frequency makes sense. Especially when you consider what would happen if they tried to eat only 3 meals a day.
Each meal would be over 1000 calories each and that’s pretty intense and hard to pull off on a daily basis.
What’s Best For You!
Depending on your calorie intake (which is dependent on your gender, height, weight, activity level, genetics and goals), eating 5-6 small meals per day could be the right thing to do. For others, it would just cause too many small meals that would drive most people to eating when they shouldn’t.
Similarly, 3-4 larger meals might be perfect for some, but hard for others. In the end, setting up a proper diet that contains the right amount of calories and nutrients and sticking to it is all that matters.
For the people who have an average calorie intake that’s right in the middle (not too high, not too low), it’s just a matter of personal preference and doing what’s easier and more convenient for you. If that’s 5-6 small meals or 3-4 bigger ones, that’s up to you.
However, no matter what your meal frequency ends up being in any of the above cases, it’s not going to make any difference in terms of the various taboo mentioned above. It won’t speed up or slow down your metabolism. It won’t cause you to lose fat or build muscle any slower.
The only thing you need to care about when it comes to how many meals to eat per day is doing whatever is more likely for you to stick to comfortably. Whatever fits your personal eating preferences and life.