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Hey guys!

Sooo we’ve always been taught to eat 3 meals per day.

But what if that’s not really the best thing for everyone? I mean, all of our bodies work a little differently right?!

So is there really one right way to eat? Is it possible that laying out your meals differently could actually make you feel better?

I did a little research and also consulted with registered dietitian Breanna Woods so we could find out!

White alarm clock on pink background - flat lay

Why eating 3 meals per day is the norm

So here’s how eating the traditional 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) became a thing:

There is some variation in the different histories I read, but basically we started eating this way around the time normal work hours were formed in the US. We like predictability and routine, so the combination of these things turned into a habit of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So it’s mostly a cultural thing… But there are some scientific benefits that make sense too.

Eating 3 meals per day spreads out our calories to keep us fueled throughout the day. It keeps our blood sugar nice and stable so we’re less likely to feel like we’re dragging halfway through the day, and it keeps us satisfied so we don’t mindlessly graze on snacks all day long.

But do other eating schedules work better for some people? Maybe!

acai bowls with fruit and granola on a pink background

What about fasting or skipping meals? 

We’ve all heard that skipping meals is a bad idea. But why?

People assume that means that skipping breakfast makes you gain weight. But really, it just means that people who tend to skip breakfast also tend to overeat the rest of the day. However, there is also some research that suggests that eating breakfast helps with better blood sugar control throughout the rest of the day. But overall, it’s probably not necessary to eat breakfast if you’re not hungry.

Skipping meals in general can make you feel tired, sluggish and grumpy. It’s not going to hurt you if it happens every now and then, but if you’re skipping meals all the time with the intention of dieting, you won’t be doing your metabolism any favors.

So what about intermittent fasting?

Because people who follow intermittent fasting technically skip breakfast, right?

Right!

All of us technically fast when we go to sleep. People who follow the traditional intermittent fasting method of fasting for 16 hours with an 8-hour “eating period” are just extending that fast. In theory, a longer fasting period forces the body to use up all of its glycogen stores so it starts burning fat for energy. The research doesn’t seem super strong, but this eating style has recently become pretty popular.

It could definitely work, I’m just not so sure how sustainable it is for most people.

small serving almonds in white ramekin on cutting board

Are some of us better off eating smaller, more frequent meals? 

Some say that eating 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day is the best way to eat. In theory, eating several small meals will keep your blood sugar and insulin levels in check and also curb cravings. This matters because blood sugar and insulin fluctuation plays a role in weight gain and fat storage.

But what does the science say?

Well, science doesn’t really seem to support these theories very strongly. Actually, eating larger less frequent meals has been shown to keep blood sugar more stable overall. Studies also show that people have better appetite control when they eat larger, less frequent meals.

So basically, eating several small meals throughout the day probably won’t do anything crazy like ramp up your metabolism. But there’s no harm in eating this way if it works for you.

blueberries and raspberries on a white plate

Remember to think big picture!

No matter what “eating style” you prefer, the most important thing is still the quality of your food. There’s no magic meal timing that’s going to outweigh the benefits of eating healthy foods. So if the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner is working for you, stick with it! If you feel better eating more small meals throughout the day, that’s awesome! If intermittent fasting is sustainable and makes you feel amazing, keep it up!

Just remember that it always comes back to these principles:

  • Eat when you’re hungry
  • Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods most often
  • If you want to lose weight, what you eat overall in a day matters. Not WHEN you eat.

The Conversation (15)

Got some thoughts? Share them!

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  • Chelsey says:

    My experience with fasting: I did the 16:8 method and skipped breakfast. The first week was hard but it got easier. I did have more energy, I think, but on weekends I would wander around the kitchen just staring into the fridge and cabinets. I missed eating breakfast with my family. After 2 months and losing about 6 inches overall (maybe like 4 lbs of weight, not mich but a noticeable difference to me) I gave up fasting. I gained all the weight back double. And I didn’t change my eating habits, I was still counting calories and eating low carb healthy stuff. I think fasting put my body into “starvation mode” and then when I went off it my body thought it needed to keep extra fat! It’s taken forever for me to lose a few of those extra pounds even with running and other exercise! Now I eat 3 meals and stop when I am full. I feel happier with this method. I just wanted to share because I think it’s a fad. Also, like you said the science isn’t super strong and the most recent science says the best way to fast is to eat a very large breakfast and a very small early dinner (like a 7am-3pm eating window) for the most benefit. Just my experience. I also wonder if fasting is more effective for people who have a lot more weight than I do to lose. I’m just trying to lose 10-12 lbs.

  • Oh well, this is one of the topics I love….(irony off). What you are saying, Cassy, is really in line with my experience and my opinion (B the way: I am a nutritionist, although at least twice as old as you are. So are my clients). The most important part: there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I like IF every now and then, but couldn’t do it for a longer time period. And I could not skip breakfast, so I rather eat early in the day and fast from lunch until the next morning. That’s better for me, but I earned really nasty comments, when I wrote about this. Further, I wrote a blog article about IF for people with eating disorders or a history of eating disorders. I guess you know the feeling, when you are called names and people just want to insult you… Thank you your great blog articles. They are well researched

  • Sydney says:

    Thanks Cassey, this was helpful. I’ve been eating every three hours (so five to six meals every day; lunch being the largest meal) for a few months now, and it’s been good. I think my metabolism has sped up, because when that three hours has elapsed I’M HUNGRY😂And I do well with my workouts (along with a good night’s rest). I love your short informative blog posts, keep it up!🤗

  • Emily Rice says:

    Hey Cassey, I did your workouts for about a month and a half. I was seeing results and I felt very confident and happy, but I decided I wanted faster results. I then started doing 2 week shreds and a bunch of hiit workouts that my body grew used to. I wasn’t even sore the next day. I worked so hard everyday, that I felt like I would pass out or throw up. I came back to your workouts yesterday and I already feel ten time better! I feel sore and I’m actually feeling great again! Thanks for the challenging workouts and for switching it up on me.
    -Emily

  • Aya says:

    I greatly appreciate this article. I have recently been struggling with this (probably has something to do with being out of a routine due to the state of everything in the world right now) and having tried fasting, 3 meals, smaller meals, grazing, cleansing, all of it. I can’t say that any one style of eating was doing any magic. The one thing I did that I could tell a difference was when I started meal prepping on the weekends even though I hated the massive food preparation session, it was worth it the rest of the week when I didn’t have to overthink it

  • Sonika Matneja says:

    I do follow intermediate fasting of 15:9 hrs. And feel more strength and working well.

  • Susan says:

    I tend to skip breakfast and just eat twice a day as I’m not normally hungry in the morning, never considered how it could be no so great for my metabolism!

    Susan Books Etc

  • Lili says:

    Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day but I am always skipping it lol. I could eat breakfasts meals at every occasion

  • Muskaan says:

    Hi Cassie, your great great great fan I am from India … I just want to ask that if we start eating according to our new diet which is completely different from the earlier one would it effect our body?????

  • Rita Schaff says:

    Thanks for the article! Indeed, I find myself eating breakfast everyday because I wouldn’t be able to function without one. At the same time, my hubby only drinks a cup of cocoa and has 2 meals for the day, some snacks later if he is hungry.

  • Stephanie Witten says:

    Hi. I’m South African and curvy. I eat small snack almost every two hours. I suffer from low blood pressure. When I’m at my healthiest I’m snacking on protein shakes and supplement shakes. The rest of the time it’s fruit, rice cakes and biltong. Then of course three meals. I try to steer clear of carbs at lunch because it makes me tired. But with lockdown jam on toast is my guilty pleasure.

  • Dewi Cynthia says:

    I usually have 3 meals a day. When i accidently skipped my breakfast (because i woke up late), my body will asked for it. So i endded up eating my lunch, my dinner, and my after dinner dinner. It makes me think that i really have to stick with 3 meals a day to prevent the craving at night. Anyway thank you for sharing this ! xoxo

  • Inga says:

    I usually don’t get hungry in the morning and if I force myself to eat breakfast before 10 am, I just get hungry again two hours later, as if I didn’t eat at all! No clue why, cause when I eat breakfast later, I don’t have this issue. Maybe my stomach is still in “sleeping mode” until 10 am and having breakfast wakes it up prematurely?
    That’s why I prefer having a late breakfast between 10 and 12 , a snack around 3 pm and then dinner.
    If I have to work out in the morning, I just eat half a banana before and after to avoid dizziness.

  • Shobha says:

    I like the fact that what you eat overall in a day matters not ‘when’ you eat.

  • Intermittent fasting has definitely boosted my productivity a lot, so that’s why I like sticking to it :-) I know at different points in my fitness journey different things resonated with me and I used to have three solid meals a day with breakfast being the hugest one!

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