It can be difficult when starting a diet because you constantly have contradicting information being thrown at you. Some nutritionists say that dairy has great health benefits, while others say to avoid it like the plague. Some say that wheat is nutritious, while others demand you eat gluten-free. Some people will tell you that it’s best to eat three well-balanced meals a day, while others recommend five to six meals a day to rev up your metabolism. So who should you trust and what should you believe?

According to Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, both are correct regarding how many meals you should eat in a day to lose weight. “Eating three, five, or even six meals a day can all work (for weight loss)” said White. “It’s all about creating a caloric deficit and what works for each person”. It also just depends on your preference. Some people have bigger appetites and prefer to snack throughout the day by having smaller meals while others enjoy having only three larger meals. The most important aspect to pay attention to while deciding your portion sizes and frequencies is the number of calories you are consuming.

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“The bigger question for weight loss is how many calories are consumed,” White said. “If you consumed 1,200 calories at three meals but 2,500 calories at five meals, as far as weight loss goes, the three meals will produce more weight loss because of the deficit.” If you are able to spread out the calories in your day by having 5 (300 calories) meals a day, then those meals could lead to weight loss, depending on your personal circumstances.

What Jim recommends to his clients is eating three moderate meals a day and two healthy snacks. Jim says that you’ll have more energy throughout the day if you are eating more frequently. It can also help stabilize your blood sugar. By eating more often, you’re less likely to get hungry and binge unhealthily on your next meal.

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Even though losing weight mostly depends on the number of calories that you are consuming, Jim doesn’t recommend that you eat them all at once. This could have detrimental effects on weight loss. Fasting for 18 hours and eating in a six-hour window is a form of intermittent fasting, which could lead to bloating, indigestion, and sluggishness. Jim says that by spacing out your meals throughout the day, you’ll feel better physically because your food will be digested and absorbed easier.

No diet or meal plan is a one-size-fits-all. It all depends on how you feel throughout the day. Pay attention to your hunger cues and what your body needs. When starting a diet, it’s important to consult with a doctor or nutritionist to find out what will work best for you.

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