If you read my free Get Lean Guide, you know at BuiltLean, we recommend eating 3 meals to help you lose fat. While there is no metabolic advantage to eating more frequently, there are some common sense reasons why eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner to help you successfully lose fat.
But before mentioning some of these benefits, let’s consider how Sumo wrestlers eat to pack on so much weight. The average Japanese man is only around 145 pounds, yet amazingly, sumo wrestlers can reach 500+ pounds! So how do they eat to get so huge? Is it possible that you have similar eating habits as a sumo wrestler?
It turns out sumo wrestlers skip breakfast, then eat 1, or 2 enormous meals at 11am, then 6pm. If they eat two meals, they usually take a 4 hour nap right after the 11am meal. I’m taking a wild guess that you probably don’t want to look like a sumo wrestler (even though sumo wrestlers are venerated for their impressive stature in Japan).
What’s important about this example is in the behavior of these overweight men. There are many epidemiological studies that show people who skip breakfast have a higher probability of being overweight, but there is no causal evidence that skipping breakfast causes weight gain.1 2
Now let’s think about this for a second. Why do so many studies show correlation, but not causation regarding eating 3 meals per day? A common sense explanation is that not skipping breakfast creates more structure in your day. Consistent eating times are associated with improved ability to control hunger (See: How to Control Hunger: 7 Tips). I’ve had several clients who were experiencing weight loss plateaus who were constantly skipping breakfast. When they started eating breakfast, their weight loss plateau suddenly ended.
There are some other important benefits to eating more frequently, which may include (1) better utilization of nutrients and (2) improved energy levels because blood sugar levels are more stable. If you eat a massive lunch, you know exactly how you feel afterwards; very sluggish.
One more point to mention is to consider eating only when you are hungry, which for me happens to be every 4-5 hours. It took a week or two for my body to acclimate to not having snacks, but it’s been hugely helpful for me to cut down processed foods.
At the end of the day, mind over matter. The number of meals is much less important than what you eat consistently. If you are focused on losing body fat, then it’s simply calories in and out. Eating unprocessed food will help immensely.
- Van der heijden AA, Hu FB, Rimm EB, Van dam RM. A prospective study of breakfast consumption and weight gain among U.S. men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007;15(10):2463-9. ↩
- Rampersaud GC, Pereira MA, Girard BL, Adams J, Metzl JD. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105(5):743-60. ↩