The “what” to eat more or less is clear to us, fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish and meat preferably in that order but… how many times and in what quantities should we eat? It is something about which there are different points of view and theories.
The truth is that the number of times that should be fed per day and its distribution in terms of quantity depends a lot on what you want to achieve as well as age, sex and logically, the pathologies and characteristics of the person.
Is it reasonable to eat many times in small amounts?
When deciding what amounts should be eaten, some experts believe that it is better to eat small amounts many times during the day. The fundamental argument of this recommendation lies in the fact that the more meals are eaten, the greater the activation of the metabolism, which also increases the consumption of calories.
The most recent studies reject this theory since there is no scientific evidence that energy consumption is different depending on the number of meals eaten per day. The calories you burn to digest your food count on the total caloric intake, not how you distribute these calories throughout the day.
Eat as best you satisfy hunger.
Now, another reason seems more logical to increase the number of times. That is, eating frequently decreases the feeling of hunger, which affects the amount of food to be reduced due to less anxiety between meals. This is also an issue on which there is no agreement or scientific evidence, and it varies depending on each individual.
Various studies have shown that eating more times than usual does not help you feel less hungry. It can even be counterproductive for some people. The most reasonable recommendation focuses on the habit of eating between 3 and 5 meals a day.
Although there is no unanimous opinion on what amounts should be eaten, there is agreement on which foods best satisfy the appetite since what controls hunger, among other things, is the source of calories (eating foods rich in fiber, for example) and not the times you distribute those calories during the day.
If the calories-you consume are the same, the energy used to digest them will stay the same, and your metabolism will remain the same.
What is your goal?
So far, we can define the situation as healthy for those who want to maintain weight and acquire correct eating habits. Now, suppose the objective is, for example, to gain muscle mass or lose weight. In that case this general guideline may vary since, in the first case eating protein 4 or 5 times a day between the main meals can influence muscle development as long as it is combined with physical exercise.
On the other hand, in studies comparing different feeding frequencies with the same daily calories, the relationship between more meals and less weight disappears. Insist that the critical factor in weight loss is not the number of times you eat during the day but the daily calorie intake. Therefore, if what we want to achieve is weight loss and being strict with the number of times we eat, we will have to reduce the amount of food and avoid fatty foods.
It seems more appropriate to reduce the number of meals to the minimum indicated in weight-loss diets. You can achieve a feeling of satiety without being very hungry and distribute the total calories to consume more simply.
Is it convenient to make an equitable distribution of meals?
There are also doubts about the distribution of calories, whether they should be distributed in the same amount in the different daily intakes or if they should be done differently. The important-thing is not so much how but how much, that is, the amount and type of food. From this point of view, the distribution would not have to influence so that it is so healthy to start with a light breakfast and end with a heavy dinner than the other way around.
Of course, the specialists agree that it is essential to maintain a regular schedule and habit consisting of eating the exact times at the same times. If your diet is irregular and you eat twice one day, another five, another six… your stomach will secrete ghrelin (the so-called appetite hormone) when you weren’t planning to eat, and you’ll starve unnecessarily.
Also, eating chaotically makes it challenging to control your caloric intake, leading to weight gain in the long run. Going out of your routine occasionally won’t hurt you (same as fasting from time to time), but eating irregularly shouldn’t characterize your diet.
Choose the best for you when deciding how much to eat.
Over time, people have increased the number of times we eat daily, even incorporating customs such as snacks or tea time that until now were only dedicated to the little ones or certain statuses. Eating more times during the day is precisely what the majority of the population in developed cultures does: have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and have two or three snacks consisting, for example, of yogurt or a piece of fruit.
We are not all the same, nor do the same things feel good for us, so our advice is to listen to the to-your body by experimenting with different frequencies of foods to find the one that best-suits your lifestyle.
No option is better than another. Some feel bad for dinner, even if it is not excessive, and who cannot go to bed without a “full tummy.” Therefore, trying and choosing the best for you based on your needs is the most convenient. Without ever forgetting your genetic background or disorders of any kind, your doctor will inform you of the guidelines to follow.