This is a question we are often asked. A review of research will throw up some conflicting and potentially confusing results (and beware of all the fads and crash diets and general “nonsense” out there). So let’s try to present a balanced view…
Most experts have long recommended these guidelines:
- Eat three main meals a day.
- Have three small snacks between meals.
- Do not skip breakfast and try to eat breakfast within 2 hours of waking.
- Understand your calorie target for the day and stick within that (no matter how often you eat).
….and the bottom line here, is that this remains sound advice. This approach avoids prolonged starvation, which is associated with extreme hunger and poor food choices (you’re starving, you grab whatever you can find…) while it also supports a better metabolism – avoiding starvation makes your body trust that food is available and so your body burns calories faster – if food supply is erratic your body may start to slow the burning of calories in an attempt to store fat reserves, and that is the very thing you want to avoid!
There is some new cutting-edge research around , for example, intermittent starvation, but this is unproven and quite risky for most of us. It may have a place in very special instances for a very small number of people, but we do not recommend it at this time.
All the debate and science is largely irrelevant in one sense: we all live in the real world and so any sustainable eating plan must fit in with our lives, our routines, our families, etc. Happily, three-meals-a-day-with-snacks-between is what most of are used to, and it is nutritionally sound, so it’s almost certainly best to stick with this.