What is better for fat loss, eating 3 or more small meals a day or intermittent fasting, where you skip a meal or two and sometimes eating at all for a day?
This article answers to that question, and a whole lot more. It’s based on the latest research and findings from experts in the fields of medicine and nutrition. I also include some of my own experiences to include a real world example.
With everything that’s packed into this article, I promise that after reading you will know the better way to eat. Not just for fat loss but for feeling and looking better too.
My Personal Experiences With Several Small Meals And Intermittent Fasting
From personal experience alone I know that intermittent fasting works way better for me. No matter how low carb or keto I make my diet, all hell breaks after a few weeks of trying to diet following the breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule so many of us are told to follow.
I start out doing great, eating a low carb meal 3 times a day for a week or two. Maybe a keto snack here and there too. Then, maybe because eating this has me always about what I’m eating next the wheels start to come off.
I eat a little more carbs at lunch or dinner.
Next thing I know, I’m knee deep in Reese’s cups and potato chips. My acid reflux is back as are the poor sleep, anxiety and low level depression that hits when I start eating multiple meals a day. It seems to invite too much temptation and not allow me to totally get past my intolerance to high carb foods.
When I eat lunch and dinner or, preferably dinner only, my cravings for carbs goes away. My energy, mood, and health improve too. Quickly. Within a week at most and I’m feeling awesome.
Anyway, that’s how I personally learned whether several meals a day or intermittent fasting is better for losing body fat. Let’s get onto the rest of the article so you can learn which diet is best for you.
Intermittent Fasting vs Small Meals
Which Is Better For Weight Loss?
A meta analysis – a review of the results of several studies – compared fastings vs eating a traditional diet of 3 or more meals a day.
The results of the analysis finds that the groups of people who fasted between 12-20 hours between meals lost the most weight. They also lost the most body fat and improved other markers of health. This includes their blood sugar levels and blood pressure decreasing.
A second meta analysis measured the results of intermittent fasting vs small meals with their calories restricted. Results from the total weight loss were about the same.
The thing is, the fasting group got to eat what they wanted during their eating window of 4-8 hours. No counting calories or carbohydrates. All they had to do was eat over a shorter amount of time during the day and they lost more fat.
There are some other benefits over caloric restriction that I reveal in the rest of this article.
Winner – Intermittent Fasting – while weight loss might be the same, not having to worry so much about calories and the content of your meals makes fasting way easier to follow and therefore the better choice.
Which Is Better For Fat Loss?
If you only read the meta analysis I reference above, you’d believe that as long as you cut calories, it doesn’t matter whether you eat one or 3 or more times a day. The amount of fat is the same.
Looking into other studies the story changes. Especially when you look at people like us who lift weights and exercise several times a week. Then the results change. A lot.
A study published in the ‘Journal Of Translational Medicine’ tested a fasting vs normal diet for 8 weeks. Both groups of men in this research project lifted weights for 8 weeks, following a diet where they ate 3 meals a day or fasted, eating all their calories within an 8 hour window.
Both groups ate the same amount of calories every day.
Pre and post-study tests find that the fasting group lost more body fat than the control group. They also showed they did not lose their muscle mass during this study.
Winner – Intermittent Fasting. Fat loss is the best kind of weight loss. You want to lose excess body fat, not muscle and bone mass which you need to stay healthy.
Which Is Better For Maintaining Muscle Mass When Dieting To Lose Fat?
No it doesn’t. Not eating enough protein, veganism, and jogging instead of push ups and pull ups do.
Whether or not the subjects lifted weights, intermittent fasting did not cause anyone to lose muscle or become weaker.
As long as you meet your daily calorie and protein needs and get enough sleep, fasting will not compromise your results. In fact their have been Muslim athletes who train through Ramadan, an X day period of fasting for religious purposes don’t suffer a decrease in their performance. If these men and ladies can do it, so can we!
Winner – Intermittent Fasting. Keep and even build you muscle while losing fat with intermittent fasting, not counting calories and eating every hour of the day. You’re a strong human, not a grazing bear, getting fat before hibernating for the winter.
Which Diet Is Better For Keeping My Mood Positive?
When I eat small meals throughout the day I’m only feeling good right after I eat. Soon after, I’m feeling sluggish and my mood crashes. It isn’t until I eat again until I feel better.
With fasting, this isn’t the case at all. I don’t feel tired, depressed, or cranky between meals. Just the opposite, actually. I have lots of energy, my mood is upbeat and optimistic, and I’m constantly thinking about what I need to eat.
Studies also support that intermittent fasting can improve your mood and energy levels. Results from one study finds that fasting for 16 hours a day led to the men in the group having better moods and were less hungry.
Be patient if you’re new to intermittent fasting and do feel a little tired, cranky, or hungry when you first start. That’s normal for most people. Your body is transitioning from burning sugar to fats for its energy and this takes a few days or so to happen. It lasts about 4 days for me.
Just stick with it and before you know it you will feel awesome. One thing, if you are fasting and ever feel sick, faint, lightheaded, etc. then eat something and call your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions About Intermittent Fasting For Fat Loss
Does It Matter How Long My Fasting Window Lasts?
Generally speaking, the longer you fast, the more fat you’ll lose. You’re also more likely to experience more benefits from fasting like increased energy and less hunger when you do say, a 48 vs 18 hour fast.
If you’re talking about short-term intermittent fasts lasting between say 16-18 hours, when it comes to fat loss the duration doesn’t seem to matter so much. Results from a recently published study find no difference in fat loss when comparing 16 and 18 hour fasts.
I personally do one meal a day (OMAD) and go roughly 20 hours between meals. If 16 or 18 works better for you, do that. I expect all of our results will be similar. It’s when you go longer than 24 hours that extra fat loss benefits kick in.
Remember that Intermittent Fasting doesn’t give you a license to eat as much of whatever you want. You should still focus on keeping carbs low (< 100 grams/day minimum) and make sure your daily protein needs are met (1 gram/pound goal body weight). Otherwise, you will find that losing fat, even when fasting for 16-20 hours between meals is impossible.
Are There Any Nutritional Supplements That Can Help?
Before you take supplements first make sure you’re eating right, staying hydrated, getting electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium especially) and getting enough sleep.
Once you’ve done that, there are supplements that make intermittent fasts not just easier, but better. This means getting deeper into ketosis (using fat for energy), more fat loss, better mental energy, more endurance and strength for your workouts, better sleep, and more.
MCT Oil – an all natural oil that’s extracted from coconuts. It helps you get into ketosis super fast (45 minutes)! Can be used in cooking, added to shakes, drizzled over food, or talen right off the spoon. I personally use MCT Edge.
Creatine Monohydrate – helps give your muscles a greater supply of instant energy. This means you can train harder, longer. Proven in over 100 clinical studies to build muscle fast – 5 or more pounds in a few weeks – get stronger, and work out harder. Creatine Edge is a great supplement and what I use. Click here to learn more.
ZMA – This supplement contains zinc and magnesium, but not the usual stuff that your body doesn’t absorb. ZMA uses zinc and magnesium aspartate which is very highly absorbed by your body. Helps you relax at bedtime for better sleep and boosts your immune system to keep you healthy. Click here to learn more.
Whey Protein – I drink a protein shake several times a week to help me get all of the high quality protein I need to recover post-workout and hopefully get a little faster and stronger. Sometimes it’s tough to eat enough protein in just 1 meal. When I eat steak, I’m usually still full 6 hours later. So, instead of eating too little or stuffing myself until I feel sick I just drink a protein shake after I finish eating dinner. Its sweetness is a nice treat too. I like Better Whey natural protein powder. It contains 23 grams of protein per scoop, has no sugar or natural sweeteners, flavors, etc.
Where Can I Learn More About Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting can change the way some medications function in your body which makes talking to your doctor before you try any type of intermittent fasting very important.
If you’re new to intermittent fasting, check out Dr. Jason Fung’s article Intermittent Fasting For Beginners. It gives you everything you need before trying it on yourself. Dr. Fung knows fasting as well as anyone. He’s helped countless sick, overweight patients lose weight and dramatically improve their health by including intermittent fasting into their diet.
Intermittent fasting is superior – not just for fat loss – but helping you feel better too. Stop wasting all that extra time eating several times a day. You’re not a dairy cow. Instead, eat once or twice a day like a lion. Strong, fast, and ready to pounce.
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