Eating frequency throughout the day has been a long debated issue. Does it matter if you eat 3 meals a day? What if you eat the same number of calories in 1 meal instead? Most research suggests eating once a day is not beneficial. Here are some reasons why you may want to eat more than just once a day.
Eating one meal a day means you’re getting a huge amount of food in 1 sitting. This will cause your blood sugar to spike after that meal. A 2007 study from Metabolism- Clinical and Experimental analyzed the effects when subjects ate 1 large meal a day or 3 meals a day. The 1 large meal and 3 meals per day were the same amount of calories.
Results from this study showed that when subjects ate 1 meal a day compared to eating 3 meals a day blood glucose levels had higher fasting blood glucose levels, delayed insulin response to an oral glucose tolerance test and greater elevations in blood glucose after eating.
Based on this study, eating 1 meal a day can increase blood sugar and possibly blunt insulin response. This could increase risk for type 2 diabetes and weight gain. Subjects in this study were healthy and normal weight, and consumed either 1 meal a day or 3 meals a day for 8 weeks each. See also: How to increase your metabolism naturally
Increased fat formation
As mentioned above, eating 1 meal a day can increase glucose and insulin secretions. Insulin promotes fat storage in addition to taking glucose from the blood and bringing it into body cells for energy.
A huge intake of energy at one time each day causes high insulin levels that can increase fat storage. A 2008 study from British Journal of Nutrition analyzed the effects on metabolism with varying meal frequencies. Subjects either ate 3 meals, or only breakfast and dinner. The 3 meals was equal in calories to the only breakfast and dinner experiment.
When subjects ate 3 meals, fat oxidation was increased compared to when subjects ate 2 meals. Although this was looking at 2 meals not 1 meal, other research studies have shown similar results with eating 1 meal a day.
Eating 1 meal a day can increase fat storage and decrease using fat as a fuel. As mentioned in the 2008 study, eating 3 meals actually increased using fat as a fuel compared to eating 2 meals a day.
Eating only once a day decreases satiety. Satiety is a measure of satisfaction after a meal, and will tell your brain you no longer need food. In the 2008 study, subjects had a higher satiety with eating 3 meals a day instead of 2.
Higher satiety throughout the day means you will probably eat less throughout the day. Eating 3 meals compared to 1 meal will leave you more satisfied, meaning your food intake will probably be lower.
Generally speaking, eating 1 meal a day could also affect mental health and emotions. If you’re feeling hungry all day, you will probably be cranky.
Are more meals per day always better?
Eating 1-2 meals a day can increase blood glucose levels, possibly even the day after, and can decrease using fat as a fuel when compared to eating 3 meals a day. So does that mean eating more than 3 times a day is even better you’re your metabolism?
Not necessarily. Sometimes eating every few hours can increase over all calorie intake and keep blood sugar and insulin levels elevated. Some people do better with eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day, but it may not be best for everyone.
How to increase meal frequency
Someone who eats only 1 time a day can have difficulty adjusting to eating more times a day. Most of the time the only meal is eaten in the evening. To get your brain used to eating more during the day, start small.
Have something small and light, like a piece of fruit, in the morning. You may not feel hungry, but eat it anyway. For lunch, get used to taking a break during the day and eating something light.
The biggest change someone needs to make when adjusting to eating more frequently during the day is getting in the habit to not gorge at night like usual. It’s important to eat a balanced meal so that in the morning you will be hungrier and more likely to eat throughout the day.
Eating 1 meal a day can have negative side effects like decreasing fat burn throughout the day and increasing blood glucose levels. Eating three meals a day can increase fat burn and increase satiety.
In order to increase meal frequencies during the day, start eating light foods during the day. Change habits; instead of eating a large meal in the evening eat a smaller meal.
References used in this article