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It may go against everything you’ve ever read about eating for fat loss, but how often you eat makes no difference to your progress. One meal a day or 10 – results will be the same.

Kiss goodbye to breakfast, you no longer need it when losing weight.

It may contradict what you've heard countless time, but how often you eat actually has very little to do with your weight loss progress. In fact, it has no direct impact on it whatsoever.

We've all heard the recommendations – eat little and often, have six to eight small meals per day, space your eating times two hours apart, eat regularly to boost your metabolism, avoid big meals, and so on.

On the face of it, it seems to make sense – eating stokes your metabolism and as you digest food, your body burns calories for extra energy, so the more frequently you eat, the larger the calorie burn. But it’s not that simple though. You get a larger calorie burn when you eat a bigger, higher calorie meal. You could eat one 500 calorie meal, or two 250 calorie ones, but the effect on your metabolism would be the same, making the one larger meal just as effective as eating two smaller ones.

The meal frequency myth is one of the biggest going. It’s up there with the avoiding egg yolks debacle and the notion that lifting heavy weights makes women big and bulky – based on pseudo science, and only considered true because so many people have recommended it over the years.

Quite simply, the main issue in whether you lose or gain weight is your total caloric intake. To lose weight, and burn fat, you must consume fewer calories than you burn.

When you eat a surplus of calories, or eat at calorie maintenance (where calories in are equal to calories out) your body has a ready supply of calories for energy. When you cut calorie intake however, this quick access energy supply has gone, so your body has to tap into your stores of body fat, resulting in a leaner, lighter you.

Preparing five meals every evening to take to work the next day, plus making breakfast when you get up, eating when you get home, then sitting down to dinner again before bed can be exhausting. It’s also time consuming and can create awkward social situations. Your boss may not approve, and your colleagues may think you’re just a little odd if you start digging into a big salmon salad, or munching raw almonds in the middle of a meeting.

There’s also the panic when you miss a meal. You fear that your metabolism is going to come to a grinding halt, you’ll stop burning calories, and your fat loss will be ruined. This won’t happen though – remember that your body is a well-oiled machine, and your metabolism its engine. It keeps ticking over for hours and hours after you've eaten, burning calories all the time whether you've eaten or not.

The final issue with frequent eating is that it actually becomes very difficult not to over-eat. If you’re only eating 1500 calories per day, and have to divide these between six or seven meals, each serving ends up being tiny. At only 200 calories per meal, you’re looking at a small chicken breast with a few tablespoons of rice and a cup of broccoli, or for snacks half a protein bar or an apple and half an ounce of walnuts.

With all that being said, eating more frequently isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here’s why…

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Meal Frequency and Energy Balance”, By Lyle McDonald, Published on November 18, 2008, Accessed on November 29th, 2012
  • Retrieved from http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/meal-frequency-and-energy-balance-research-review.html
  • Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/3873603791/
  • Photo courtesy of jduty on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/jduty/4746148074

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