Timing of Meals: Does It Matter?
By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD
If you are trying to lose weight, you are likely familiar with the concept that you should eat less calories than you burn in order to shed some extra pounds.
But what about meal timing? Does it matter if you eat all of your daily calories at once, or should you spread it out?
These are common questions that may arise when you are improving your diet or decreasing your calorie intake to lose weight.
While it is true that a calorie deficit will almost always lead to some degree of weight loss, meal timing may have an impact on energy levels and the amount of weight you lose.
Meal Timing and Weight Loss: What Does the Science Say?
The number of times that someone needs to eat each day to lose weight is a highly debated topic. Current research suggests that the ideal number of meals and snacks for weight loss depends on the person and his or her lifestyle, genetics, diet composition, and several other factors.
The best times to eat meals and the amount of time to leave between meals are also unclear. However, there are some studies that suggest that starting your daily calorie consumption with breakfast in the morning and spreading out the rest of your calories over the course of the day may help you lose weight.
For example, one study on over 50,000 adults found that those who ate breakfast experienced a decrease in body mass index (BMI) over the course of the study compared to those who skipped their first meal of the day (1).
While every person is different, people who eat breakfast followed by other balanced meals later in the day may consume less calories overall. This is because eating regularly and not skipping meals can prevent you from feeling extremely hungry and overeating when you do sit down for a meal.
Other Benefits of Spreading Out Meals
Skipping meals or eating one large meal a day may make also you feel sluggish or uncomfortably stuffed. On the other hand, eating more often with a few hours in between meals can lead to sustained energy levels.
If your meals contain the appropriate balance of macronutrients, you should feel satisfied and energized until the next time you eat.
Overall, consuming balanced meals at regular intervals may help you cut back on overall daily calorie intake and can help you stay energized. Knowing this, you may find it beneficial to get into a routine of eating three nutritious meals a day to help you reach your weight loss goals.
Note from Healthy For Life Meals: Our meal plans are designed to include three delicious, nutritionally complete meals a day that will keep you satisfied and full! We take the work—and guesswork—out of planning and preparing meals, so you don’t have to worry about what you will eat next. Jumpstart your regular eating routine by getting started with HFLM today.