Another Study “Questioning the Logic” of the 6 Meal Per Day Diet Plan

A big argument for eating 6 meals per day, is that the 6 small meals supposedly increases the metabolic rate.

It is also argued that if you skip meals, you metabolism will shut down and your body will hoard fat. Well the British Journal of Nutrition has cited a study which proves this theory wrong.
Thai Food

(I LOVE Thai food more than anything! Well…almost anything!)

Meal Frequency and Energy Balance

This journal pulled together the results of several studies, which took two groups eating the same amount of calories. One group ate 3 meals and the other group ate 6 meals. What they found was that your metabolic increase was based on daily calories and had nothing to do with meal frequency.

What Other Nutritionists Say About Eating Several Small Meals

Lyle McDonald had this to say in summarizing meal frequency:

TEF (Thermogenic Effect of Food) differs for the different nutrients, on average it constitutes about 10% of a typical mixed diet. So every time you eat, your metabolic rate goes up a little bit due to TEF.


Eat more and metabolic rate goes up more, right?

Except, let’s think about that….Say we have two people, both eating 3000 calories per day. One eats 6 meals of 500 calories/meal while the other eats 3 meals of 1000 calories/meal.

The first will have a TEF of 50 calories (10% of 500) 6 times/day. The second will have a TEF of 100 calories (10% of 1000 calories) 3 times/day. Well, 6X50 = 300 calories/day and 3X100 = 300 calories/day.

No difference.

Sure, if you increase food intake from, say, 1500 calories to 2000 calories, you will burn more with TEF; but this has nothing to do with meal frequency, it has to do with eating more food.

So Your Metabolic Rate Will Not Increase By Eating Frequently

This just shatters the long-held belief that eating every few hours keeps your metabolism high. If eating 6 meals per day seems natural then by all means eat 6 times a day, but if eating just once or twice a day feels more natural…that is fine as well.

I like eating just one major meal per day along with a couple of small snacks. The main thing is to eat fewer calories than what you burn if you want to lose weight.

Don’t make it more difficult than that.

29 thoughts on “Another Study “Questioning the Logic” of the 6 Meal Per Day Diet Plan”

  1. Hi Rusty,

    Is this really the best way in the long run? I know that you said that Ori is 50 and has been doing this but how do you get the recommended daily intake of food? I am a 17 year old girl and for the past year I’ve been eating the 5-6 meal plan a day, I’m in good shape but I do have a little bit of fat on my stomach and thighs. I’m also fairly active and very health conscious. There’s so much information out there that it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t and whats good for you and whats not!

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  3. In response to Tyler Durden:

    But if you think that eating five to six meals per day doesn’t work, what about bodybuilders and other athletes? I know several people who eat small frequent meals per day and lose tons of weight. The thing is is that you have eat a lot of the right foods and I think you know by now what they are.

  4. Years ago I read the Stanley Burrough’s book, “The Master Cleanse.” After the cleanse, Stanley advocated a one-meal-per-day plan. – I cannot tell you how much better I felt going to one meal per day. I was actually more energetic and alert during my work day, and I slept like a baby after my evening meal. I lost 40 pounds without even trying.

  5. Everyone needs to find what works for them. I started a bit over a month ago to eat 5 or six 300 to 350 calorie meals each day. I have started to increase my exercise, but need to do better. In the first four weeks, I lost 16 lbs and three inches off my waist.

    This is an easy long term life style for me. Do I believe that it will increase my metabolic rate? Not really. But I do find that it cuts down my craving for high calorie binge snacks. If I find myself hungry, I just remind myself that I have a meal coming up in 30 or 45 minutes.

    The key is to plan out your meals in advance, make them something that you really like to eat, and being sure you get a good mix of protein and fiber in each meal.

    Example: my “second breafast” this morning was 3/4 cup of fresh berries mixed in with 6 oz. of light vinilla yogurt and a Fiber One bar. Almost like desert. And it kept me going to “first lunch”!

  6. Not exactly sure what you’re trying to say here, but eating six meals a day is unrealistic for most people.

  7. Hi Rusty,

    I stumbled across your website yesterday and I must say, WOW!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for these great dieting articles!

    I am a 36 year old single mom living in Towson, MD who works-out incessantly (and always has). My friends even call me the gym nazi! hahaha! And although I’m in excellent shape and am muscular, I’ve been struggling (and I mean STRUGGGGLLLING) with my weight for a long time now. I’m 10 pounds overweight and have a small gut… I need to shed weight and have tried EVERY diet under the sun.

    I have been SO bought into this 6-small-meals-a-day crap for so long, that it never even occurred to me that there was actually another school of thought out there regarding weight-loss. The media and the Weight Watchers gurus of the world have us all brain-washed into thinking that this is the only way to lose weight. Yet it has never worked for me… but I never thought that I could change it without endangering my health! So I have been spinning my wheels for years now!!! I cannot tell you how many times I would start on a Monday my little 6-small-meals diet… counting out and pre-packaging every single calorie down to the very last morsel (12 raw almonds, 1 apple, 1 egg-white omelet with asparagus, large salad with low-fat dressing, etc. haha!), eat all the right foods, exercise 6-7 days a week, and still my weight would eeeeek down a pound or two and I would be so frustrated.

    Then last year, I decided to enter my very first triathlon sprint here in Columbia, MD. I was training (no exaggeration) some days 3 hours a day, no less than 6 days a week… from February up to my event in August. Yes, I lost some weight, but not like you would have thought. I couldn’t believe it! I was killing myself with exercise: swimming laps, running, weight-training, taking spin classes, step aerobics, biking outdoors, kick-boxing… you name it. So your theory that when you train on an empty stomach your body actually taps into your fat storage AS OPPOSED TO USING THE FOOD CALORIES IN YOUR MUSCLES… it was like someone hit me in the head. All those hours last year killing myself exercising and burning thousands of calories, only to see a little weight come off… it was because I wasn’t really getting to my fat storage… I was simply burning food energy!

    I’ve started Day 1 of this eating 1-meal-a-day idea. I did the sacred heart diet for the past 7 days (it ended yesterday) and I shed 9 pounds. I’m sure most of this is water weight, but I ran 5 miles every single day and am fitting into a smaller pant size, so who knows? Anyway, I followed your advice today and drank a low-sugar whey protein shake this morning (100 calories), had one for lunch + an apple (170 calories) and will make myself a healthy dinner tonight. Yes, I’ve been hungry, but another great thing that you write about is also a “crazy” concept in this brain-washed society: IT’S OKAY TO BE HUNGRY!!! It’s actually okay!!!! Oh, my god, I feel like I’ve been given permission to let myself feel a little hungry!!!

    I also followed your advice of combining interval cardio (HIIT) with the steady cardio + weight-training. I did your routine last night and today at around noon. I’ve already been met with criticism from people worried that my metabolism will shut down (haha!) and worried I’ll starve myself. You put it best when you said something along the lines of: it’s politically incorrect to criticize someone when they overeat, but somehow okay for everyone to lend their opinion when you skip a meal or two. That is SO true!!! Let me ask you this though: I plan events for a large university. When I’m not at events though, I spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. I hate this about my job, but a lot of days, I’ll be at my computer almost all day. Can I still lose weight doing the one-meal-a-day diet? I normally exercise after work, at around 5:30 p.m. Please advise…

    I have found your articles FASCINATING. I love that you research things too. THANK YOU! I think you’re amazing!!!! I will let you know how I do on my new plan!!! p.s. I’m signed up for the Iron Girl ’09, baby! And this year, I will be much, much leaner! I just know it!

  8. hi rusty,
    I got evrything here
    for fatloss but most important thing is u didn’t wrote about sideeffect of fat percen, if body goes below 7% thn its not safe n healthy n cause severe problems
    so plz plz help

  9. your body will tell you if you need to eat and how much. The mixture of foods that you eat is the only thing you should concentrate on.

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