Do you need to eat every 3 hours? This question came up several times in the forum, like here. And usually it stems out of convenience: you lack time or are too lazy to cook. So you're looking for a way to rationalize.
No time to eat? Make time, your body needs food. No time to cook 6x/day? Me neither. That's why you must batch cook 1x/day. But practical things aside, let's see if your body benefits from eating every 3 hours.
Why You Don't Need to Eat Every 3 Hours. Popular myth: your metabolism — how many calories you burn at rest — is faster if you eat more frequent meals. That's how eating every 3 hours would increase fat loss.
Research shows that eating every 3 hours doesn’t increase your metabolism. And less frequent meals or fasting doesn’t decrease your metabolism neither. Forum member Leanstrong posted the studies. Thank him for the info.
Why You Need to Eat Every 3 hours. Eating every day at the same time will make you hungry each day at the same time. More benefits:
- Fat Loss. You'll get hungry if you go without food for more than 3 hours. And this can make you overeat at the next meal, preventing fat loss.
- Weight Gain. Try eating 6000kcal/day in 3 meals. Gaining weight is a lot easier if you spread your calories in 6-7 meals per day.
- Less Hunger. Smaller meals decrease your stomach size over time. Your stomach will feel full sooner. You'll also stabilize blood sugar & insulin.
- More Energy. Eating 3 large meals of 1000kcal will make you sleepy & lethargic. Smaller meals: more energy, better focus, no set stomach.
- Less Cheating. You know you'll have a healthy meal within 3 hours. Psychologically this makes it easier to keep your diet healthy.
Tips to Make Your Life Easier. Lack of time will prevent you to eat more than 3-4 meals/day. Here are some tips to make things work:
- Prepare Food in Advance. Cook your food for your day while making breakfast or dinner. This takes 1h and saves you stress the rest of the day. You'll also save money compared to buying food outside.
- Take Food with You. Get plastic boxes and take everything with you to work/school. If you spend a lot of time in your car: buy a fridge.
- Free Time to Eat. Too busy at work? Take breaks. You'll focus better if you take one every 2 hours. Read the Power of Full Engagement.
- Stop Caring. About what people do or say about your diet. This is your life and you have your goals. Make it happen.
What About Intermittent Fasting? On these diets you alternate fasting with eating. The length of the fast & feed depends on the diet. Examples:
- Alternate Day Fasting: 36h fast, 12h feed.
- Eat Stop Eat: 24h fast 1-2x/week.
- Fast-5: 19h fast, 5h feed.
- Leangains: 16h fast, 8h feed.
- Warrior Diet: 20h fast, 4h feed.
I'm doing Eat Stop Eat since 10 weeks now and highly enjoy it. Read my review here and the discussion here. The Warrior Diet and Leangains also work if you lift weights. Read this & this discussion in the forum.
Realize, however, that fasting is a different game. Eat every 3 hours or fast intermittently. There's no middle way.