Your weight is an important part of your overall health. Having too much fat can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. Many people lose weight to prevent diseases, live longer, and feel better about themselves.
Many diets and strategies exist to help people get rid of extra fat. Cutting calories, exercising more, and changing your eating patterns are key parts of many of these diets. One of these strategies is to eat a smaller meal every 3 hours instead of three larger meals throughout the day.
Why eat every 3 hours?
The reasoning behind eating at least every 3 hours for weight loss mainly has to do with your metabolism. Your metabolism is your body’s system of getting energy from calories in the food you eat. This energy is necessary for all activities that your body does, such as:
- Digesting food
Your metabolism aims to keep a balance of energy in vs. energy out. Your body stores extra energy from the food you eat as fat. It burns fat for energy if you eat fewer calories than your body needs.
Burning calories from digesting food
Eating 3 hours a day is meant to help your metabolism stay active and burn more energy. Your body uses some of the energy you get from food to digest. Eating every 3 hours is meant to keep your metabolism burning more calories through digestion than if you ate less often.
Avoiding starvation mode
Your metabolism will burn less energy if you eat less than your body needs. This is your body's way of saving energy if it thinks you're starving. Eating more often may encourage your metabolism to keep burning more calories during weight loss.
Reducing hunger and overeating
Eating fewer calories than your body needs often makes you feel hungry. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to eat less and lose weight. You may end up overeating to get rid of the hunger.
Eating every 3 hours may help you feel less hungry than if you were going longer between meals. You may get used to eating smaller portions. This can help prevent overeating and binging that could reverse weight loss.
Does eating every 3 hours help with weight loss?
Eating every 3 hours doesn’t necessarily help you lose weight. Weight loss depends mainly on eating fewer calories than your body burns. How often you eat throughout the day doesn’t matter as much as eating the right number of calories overall. You don’t need to choose between a 3-hour diet or 3 meals a day.
Tips for eating every 3 hours for weight loss
Incorporate other weight loss strategies along with eating every 3 hours.
Learn how many calories you need to eat for weight loss
The number of calories you should eat every day to lose weight is based on your:
- Level of physical activity
Many calculator tools exist to help you find your target calorie intake based on these details. You can plan your meals and snacks every 3 hours to meet this target.
Write down what you eat
Keep track of everything you eat throughout the day. Write down each meal, snack, and its portion size. This process helps you avoid overeating and better understand eating habits that might be keeping you from losing weight.
Control portion sizes
Eating more often means you’ll have to eat less food each time. Measure your portions to make sure you’re staying under your daily calorie goal.
Eat healthy foods
Eating every 3 hours won’t help you lose weight if you eat foods that can lead to weight gain. The best foods for weight loss have high nutritional value and a lower number of calories. Try to eat lots of:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats like chicken and trimmed pork
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grain bread, pasta, and rice
Limit foods that are high in added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. These can include:
- Baked goods
- Fast food
- Sugary cereals
- Packaged snacks like potato chips
Exercise can help your body burn more calories. This can help in both losing weight and maintaining the weight loss.
Limits of eating every 3 hours
Eating every 3 hours doesn’t work for everyone who is trying to lose weight.
It doesn’t automatically lead to weight loss. Eating every 3 hours doesn’t cause weight loss on its own. Many other eating patterns can help you lose weight if the 3-hour diet doesn’t work for you. Talk to your health care provider if you need guidance on where to begin.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
British Journal of Nutrition: "Meal frequency and energy balance."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight," "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight."
DukeHealth: "Small, Frequent Meals are Better for Your Metabolism."
Garnet Health: "Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Diet & Weight Loss"
HelpGuide: "How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off."
International Journal of Obesity: "Adaptive thermogenesis in humans."
The Journal of Nutrition: "The Effect of Eating Frequency on Appetite Control and Food Intake: Brief Synopsis of Controlled Feeding Studies."
NHS: "How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?"
Piedmont Healthcare: "Food journaling can help you melt off the pounds."
Public Radio International: "Overeating doesn't make you fat. The process of getting fat makes you overeat."
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