Why the 6 Meals a Day Diet is Dead

by Tommi on May 25, 2011

If you believe you have to eat six meals a day to be healthy, lose weight and protect your muscle mass, you need to read this article. You might be wasting your time and efforts on something that really doesn’t matter.

If you follow the six meals a day diet plan, you know it takes a lot of effort and preparation; that time might be better spent on doing something else.

I bet you’ve heard six meals a day is a must for fat loss. This has been the absolute truth as told by magazines and nutritionists for the last 20 years.

The reasons we’ve all heard so far for eating every few hours is it will give us stable blood sugar and better focus, keep our metabolism high, preserve muscle.

Those are good things to have, who wouldn’t want to be more focused with a nice high metabolism to keep us lean.

The only question is what if it isn’t true?

But Won’t I Feel Tired If I Don’t Eat Six Times A Day?

This is one of those things we have all been told, without constant food supply our blood sugar will crash.  Low blood sugar can make you like irritable, moody, light-headed and shaky.

It’s unlikely that you have low blood sugar problems. As little as 5-10% of the population actually have a malfunction in their ability to regulate their blood sugar levels.

What does exist is habit, your stomach is used to eating at certain time intervals. That doesn’t mean your blood sugar is low.

Your body is made with lots of checks to keep it safe, one of these is the regulation of blood sugar. If you suddenly stopped eating it would take up to 72 hours for your blood sugar to drop enough to give you a fuzzy brain. To top it off, that fuzzy brain feeling only lasts one day. Your body switches over to processing proteins and fats after 3-4 days of not eating, they turn into something called ketones.

Try it out, go for one day without eating and see for yourself.

If I Don’t Eat 6 Meals A Day I Will Get Fat Because My Metabolism Slows Down.

Your body has certain needs dependent on your size. To survive your heart needs to beat and your cells need to eat.  That uses up a certain amount of energy depending on your size and lean mass.

Researchers have found that when when they make people go on a water only diet for 3 days, their metabolic rate does not drop. This is 72 hours without food. So much for needing to eat every three hours!

Metabolic rate is  increases in short-term fasting. For some concrete numbers, studies have shown an increase of 3.6% – 10% after 36-48 hours without food.

What About Long Term?

A group of people ate every other day for a period of 22 days. That’s taking it to the extreme wouldn’t you say, eating only every second day instead of 6 times a day. The results were very interesting, no decrease in  resting metabolic rate.

So much for needing to eat every three hours to keep your metabolism high!

But My Muscles Will Wither Away And I Will Lose Lean Mass?

You do need to protect your muscles from being eaten during a diet. Without your lean mass you will burn less energy and gain more weight after you’ve finished the diet. Do you believe eating 6 meals a day is what’s important for preserving lean mass?

Next is a research study on men and women who undertook a very low calorie diet for 12 weeks. They only ate 800 Calories and 80 grams of protein per day. This is an extremely low amount of protein, very far from the usual 30 grams every 3 hours recommendation.

Would you expect them to have lost a lot of muscle?

Half of the people DID lose an average of 10lbs of lean mass. The other half lost NONE at all.

The difference between these groups was only one thing, the type of exercise they did.

The participants who did cardio lost tremendous amounts of muscle whilst the participants pumping iron 3-4 times a week lost none.

Going to the gym 3-4 times a week will keep all that muscle you’ve worked so hard for even at this low level of calories and protein. Eating 6 times a day just isn’t that important in comparison.

The Obituary Of The 6 Meals A Day Diet.

Eating constant small meals is not needed.  Your metabolism doesn’t care, your muscles don’t really care and your brain doesn’t mind either.

Now that you understand this about eating frequency you have a lot more freedom regarding how you eat.

Since you won’t be so concerned about eating every few hours you’ll have plenty of time to actually sleep, watch TV, play games or maybe even read a book, anything you might imagine you’d enjoy doing.

Try this out, eat nothing for a whole day and you’ll notice that you might he hungry once or twice, but for the most part you’ll be much more energetic.

You may notice your stomach grumbling, but that’s because it’s used to eating so often. It takes a while to reset your body’s “food clock.”

That was my experience; I’ve switched over to not eating anything in the morning and then having a massive meal or two after training. This allows me to stay very clear and focused during the day. And I get to eat a huge satisfying meal after my gym session.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mr SNR November 1, 2011 at 9:14 am

Tommi – good article! I have been eating 4 meals a day (spaced out evenly) and counting my calories for the past five years, consistently. Being worried about my next meal, throughout each day, really had a way of slowing me down mentally, where eating became more of a chore than an enjoyment. A couple of months ago, I decided that I no longer wanted to be a slave to overrated muscle building and dieting routines. Now, I eat a couple of small meals during the day and one large meal for dinner… and guess what? I feel great, food tastes better and I’m reminded how much of a blessing it is to have a nice dinner with family, especially after a long day. My strength and muscle building progress has not suffered at all and I feel more energetic during the day.

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