Controversy surrounds eating six meals a day: Is it healthy or is this unhealthy? Is eating six meals in one day good or bad? I’m a certified personal trainer. The idea of eating six meals a day has received a bad wrap because some people, upon hearing or reading the word “meals,” think that eating “six meals” a day is the same as eating six, full-course meals a day.
This is not what’s meant by eating “six meals a day.” A more accurate way of terming this is having “six mini-meals” a day, or, “six times a day.” Another way it can be accurately phrased is “never going more than three hours without eating.”
Now that you understand what “six meals a day” actually means, is this healthier than eating three squares a day?
Yes, it is. If you feed yourself only three times a day — and this absolutely means literally only three times daily — no snacking, not even a handful of grapes — this means that your body goes relatively long periods without food.
This can cause problems in energy level (due to low blood sugar), excess hunger that causes overeating at the next meal, and a slower metabolism.
Eating six times daily means less hunger, more energy, better regulation of blood sugar, and a more efficient metabolism.
It’s not uncommon for overweight people to eat only a few times a day, though I firmly believe that significantly overweight people don’t let much time go in between feedings. On the other hand, I’ve heard of Sumo wrestlers eating just once a day: enough food in that one “meal” to feed half a dozen men.
Anyways, if you go long stretches without some food, your body may start conserving energy, because your body doesn’t “know” when the next feeding will be. So it holds onto stored body fat, which is why diets of skipping meals or going long periods without eating don’t promote much fat loss.
Our bodies are hardwired to hold onto fat stores, to protect us from starving to death during famines, and this came in handy during ancient times when early peoples couldn’t just hop in a car and drive to the nearest convenience store for food.
Modern man’s body has the same physiological response to long periods of not eating as did primitive man’s. But remember, early man was very physically active, so even if his metabolic rate was slowed down due to long stretches in between eating, it was fairly easy to offset this with all the walking, hunting, gathering, building and lifting that he (and she) did.
Modern man is relatively sedentary and puts fat on much easier than his ancient ancestors. Make a habit of eating at least six times a day, but remember, this doesn’t mean six full-size meals.