One of our greatest tools when it comes to fat loss is intermittent fasting, also known as time restricted eating, intermittent eating, or periodic fasting, to name a few of the terms we use to describe it. It’s a simple concept—we restrict the frequency of our meals and the total time we spend eating to reap several benefits—and while we have learned that extended fasting brings a lot of benefits, for a lot of us, fasting regularly is just not possible.
Before we continue, it’s important to dispel some myths on meal frequency. The conventional wisdom from the last several decades has been to eat smaller, more frequent meals. This has been a staple of the bodybuilding community for a long time. If I had to guess, one reason why this helps bodybuilders is because even if the meals are smaller, eating more frequently causes more pulses of insulin, which could put you in a more anabolic environment. The problem is that insulin is not selectively anabolic—in other words, it makes everything grow—not just your muscle cells, but your fat cells as well.
Then we were told that this is how we keep our metabolism revved up. On the surface, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If you don’t have much knowledge of how metabolism works, and you think that eating more frequently helps the fire burn hotter, you’d think this is the way to go. Unfortunately, the research does not support this idea. While a higher meal frequency may help some individuals maintain more muscle in a dieting phase, and there may be some other benefits, from the standpoint of diet induced thermogenesis, total energy expenditure and metabolic rate, it does not appear to be any better than a lower meal frequency.
The one area where increased meal frequency can be a good thing would be during times where you are consuming higher carbs, because it will help maintain stable blood glucose levels if you space out those carbohydrates. This could lead to less blood sugar swings, and consequently, less cravings, and less of a chance of you going off of your diet plan. However, if you are following a ketogenic lifestyle, it’s better to eat larger, less frequent meals so that you are adequately satiated.