5-6 small meals is a very common tip that gets thrown around when on the topic of losing weight and staying lean.
Why it potentially works?
In theory, if you start consuming smaller meals as opposed to larger meals, you’ll be less likely to overeat, and by spacing your meals out more frequently, you should have less hunger pangs throughout the day and turn your metabolism into a fat burning factory.
Why 5-6 meals may not work
The main problem with all these magical fat loss tips is that people either are not told specifically why this method works, or they misconstrue the methodology because they are not given enough context…let’s begin:
[How do you classify a small meal vs a large meal?]
I can fit 10 Samoas into a snack size zip lock bag…10 Samoas = 5 servings = 700 calories. A standard Tupperware container full of brown rice may seem like a lot to a 110lb. girl, but may seem puny to a 300lb. lineman. I’ve said this before and I will continue to raise this issue, we need to quantify the amount we eat. This holds true for people that count their macros AND even more so for clean eaters, paleo eaters, vegetarians, etc. Under nourishing yourselves is just as bad and sometimes worse than over eating.
[“You have to eat every 2-3 hours or else your metabolism will slow down…” …even if you aren’t hungry]
This goes back to the idea of having a healthy relationship with food. The last thing you want is to constantly be thinking about food, and that is more likely to happen not only when you are extremely restrictive, but if you are in a forced mindset of having to eat because of what time it is. Food should be consumed based on energy needs. Have you been sitting all day? Have you been hauling heavy loads of boxes around? Have you already worked out/or are you planning on working out later? Did you run a marathon over the weekend? Are you going to be on your feet all night as a nurse or doctor working night shift? Food should be seen as fuel and be consumed when your “tank” is empty or if you foresee it to be drained quickly in the near future. Also, your metabolism will barely be increased by more meals throughout the day…you’ll have 100x more success increasing your metabolism with strength/resistance training.
My point is that we place too much emphasis on supplemental tips and tricks without focusing on establishing a strong base of nutrition. We need sufficient protein for lean muscle retention, carbs for sources of energy, and fats to protect our internal organs and keep our moods in check. I sometimes eat 5-6 small meals a day, and I sometimes I eat only 2 large meals. At the end of the day the number of meals means nothing, and when you eat those meals has little overall effect. We need to know how many calories our individual bodies need to consume in order to either gain mass or lose weight, and by staying within our proper macro nutrient ratios, we’ll be able to maintain an optimal lean muscular body composition.