ATLETA Fitness

How many times a day should we eat for weight loss?

I am often asked by clients and friends “how many meals should I be consuming each day?”, I usually answer along the lines of “it’s not so much the amount of meals, but rather the content of each meal and the total intake for the day versus your requirements”. The question keeps arising so I spoke to ALTETA Dietitian consultant Duncan Hunter for his professional opinion. He came back to me with a summary of the scientific research that exists on the topic…..enjoy.

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How many times a day should we eat for weight loss?

There are many arguments both for and against having several small meals a day versus the standard three. The main argument for more small meals is that you will speed up your metabolism and might be less hungry, however an opposing belief is that if you have more meals it may lead to weight gain as it provides more opportunities to eat during the day.

It is surprising to find out that very few quality studies have been done to answer this question of what’s the best number of meal meals/snacks to have a day. Although there is no shortage of people claiming you must have at least six small meals a day. The answer at present from the latest systematic review by Palmer et al. suggests that the limited evidence available suggests there is no association between eating frequency, weight management and health.

There may be very few good studies regarding meal frequency however a interesting statistic is that people in the US weight loss registry the largest of its kind which analyses people who have successfully maintained a weight loss of a least ten kilograms for more than a year. Reports members ate on average 4.87 meals or snacks/day, with few eating less often than twice a day. One solution is to try both and see what works for you but at present there is no one size fits all diet plan for guaranteed success except to make sure you don’t over consume calories.

About the author

Duncan Hunter is a Dietitian with a passion for getting people results. To learn how to eat the right for you, contact us today.


Rena R Wing and James O Hill (2001). . Successful weight loss maintenance. Annual Review of Nutrition Vol. 21: 323-341
Michelle A Palmer, Sandra Capra , and Surinder K Baines (2009). Association between eating frequency, weight, and health.Nutrition Review Vol. 67(7):379–390

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