I love this plan, because I love eating.
Here’s the basic idea: Instead of eating three large meals a day, break it up into three modest meals and three snacks, evenly spaced throughout the day.
By fueling your body with smaller amounts more frequently, your energy level will stay more consistent throughout the day. You’ll boost your metabolism, which keeps your body efficient and can help you burn extra fat.
Eating less food more often helps keep you satisfied without overeating. You’ll feel more satiated throughout the day, and therefore less likely to go on an overeating binge. If you wait until you’re ravenous, you’re likely to shovel extra food into your belly before realizing you’re “full enough.”
My favorite “diet” book, The Abs Diet, by David Zinczenko (Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health Magazine) and Ted Spiker, cites two studies that support the six-a-day regimen.¹
One study at Georgia State University measured hourly energy balance (calorie intake versus expenditure) in their subject group. They found that if you keep your hourly surplus or deficit within 300-500 calories at all times, you’ll be better able to lose fat and gain muscle. The test subjects with greater energy imbalances (more than 500 calories in either direction), were the fattest, while the subjects with the smallest range of imbalances were the skinniest.
A second study in Japan compared boxers who ate either two or six meals a day, with the same total number of daily calories. Both groups lost an average of eleven pounds over two weeks. The boxers that ate six times a day, however, lost three pounds more fat and three pounds less muscle than the other guys.
I’ve been eating this way for a little over a year now, and it’s terrific. I enjoy having “second breakfast” each morning, and get to snack — guilt-free — several times a day.
I recommend having three slightly larger meals (say, around 500 calories each), and three smaller meals (around 250 calories each), which makes it easier to manage within our standard three-meals-a-day culture. Meals should be spaced roughly two or three hours apart.
Two pitfalls to watch out for, though:
1. Limit your larger meals to 500 (or so) nutrient-dense calories. Eating at restaurants is definitely the toughest part of this.
2. Don’t turn your six meals into constant grazing throughout the day.
If you haven’t tried eating like this, give it a try for a couple of weeks, see what you think, and then report back in the comments!
¹ Pages 94-96, first edition paperback.
Plate & Utensil image from MySiteMyWay.com