If you're gearing up to get started on your weight loss diet plan, one thing that you've likely heard that you should be doing is avoiding the large '3 squares' a day approach and instead, breaking your calorie intake up into six or so 'mini' meals that you eat at regular intervals throughout the day.

Some people view these as mini meals while others will view them as three meals and three snacks. However you choose to slice it, the concept is clear. For faster weight loss success, a higher frequency of eating is recommended.

But is this really the truth? Is this the faster way to get results and achieve the body of your dreams or is there a better method?

Before you're too quick to jump on the six-meal-a-day bandwagon, you might want to reconsider. In most cases, eating so frequently can actually just work against you rather than help your progress along.

Let's take a quick look at some of the main reasons why snacking can lead to fat gain and why you should opt for larger, less frequent meals.

The Blood Sugar Control Theory

The very first reason why it's often recommended to snack throughout the day and be eating more often is because it's said that doing so will help to control your blood sugar levels better.

This isn't necessarily the case, however. Upon further inspection, you'll note that if you're eating six meals a day and each of those meals contains a small dose of carbohydrates, hopefully along with proteins and healthy fats, you're going to get six doses of insulin release as well.

As insulin is released and starts removing sugar from the blood, lower blood sugar levels will result, which will just drive you to consume more food.

This ongoing cycle could make you binge-like because you'll have to constantly be practicing self-control to stop yourself form eating further. Self-control tends to be a funny thing in that we only have so much of it. You may think you have the highest level of self-control in the world but the truth of the matter is that you only have so much. Once those resources are depleted, self-control goes out the window and they'll be no stopping you.

So if those frequent meals are wearing on your self-control day in and day out, you really will only be able to stick with that diet for so long before you give in.

If you're just eating three larger meals however and omitting the snacks from your day, you won't get nearly the same insulin release. This means more stabilized blood glucose levels and fewer lows that prompt you to eat more food.

The end result is that you actually have superior blood sugar control, proving this theory to be incorrect.

The Hunger Theory

Another important reason why you should think against the notion that snacking throughout the day is the best way to lose weight is due to the hunger that this can create.

We just went over how eating more frequently will influence your blood sugar levels. To add to that, each time that insulin comes in and removes sugar from the blood, you'll be left with that blood sugar low.

Do you know what comes with a blood sugar low? Severe hunger. When your blood sugar low has plummeted rapidly, your body is going to do whatever it can to prompt you to consume more food. This means stimulating the hunger response, especially for foods that are rich in carbohydrates as these are the ones that will provide that instant energy and help to bring your blood sugar levels back up to where they were before.

So you have one factor working to increase your hunger level already.

The second reason why hunger may start to be an issue when you're eating more frequently throughout the day is because you'll find yourself 'clock watching'.

Clock watching essentially refers to you watching the minutes tick away until your next meal. You might start to find that you never really truly feel satisfied after eating such small meals and snacks that you feel like you always need to eat more. As soon as your meal is done, you still feel a few pains of hunger and immediately start thinking about the next meal.

The more consciously you are aware of your meal times and have your mind focused on food, the hungrier you are naturally going to be.

Ever find on a very busy day that you just aren't hungry or that you make it through the entire day without eating anything without realizing it?

This is, in part, because you were too busy to stop and think about food. You had a million and one things on your plate and food was the last thing on your mind. As such, you didn't experience such strong hunger signals.

Constantly eating throughout the day puts food always on your mind. For some people, this is a recipe for disaster as their hunger will get out of control and maintaining a proper calorie intake will be virtually impossible.

If you have just three or four larger meals in the day, you'll feel completely satisfied after each meal since you'll be able to serve yourself up larger portion sizes and once the meal is finished, you can forget about food for a while.

Many people find that after switching over to a less frequent meal schedule, they feel great relief in that they don't have to constantly be worried about getting those small meals and snacks in and they can go about their day more easily.

Excess Carbs And Fat Storage & Release

The next issue to address that you may want to think about when considering how frequently you want to be having meals throughout the day is the fat storage and breakdown process.

We already mentioned earlier that each time you eat a meal, especially one containing a good dose of carbohydrates, the body is going to release insulin. Insulin is the primary fat storage hormone in the body, so when you have extra glucose and calories floating around in the blood stream that are not required for an immediate fuel source, your body is going to take those calories up and transport them into storage.

With all that insulin present, this process takes place even easier than normal – it's almost guaranteed as that is the primary role that insulin fills: to store excess calories.

In addition to this, in order to get your body burning up body fat, you want to minimize your insulin levels (as then the body will move into a state of breaking down fat tissue) and put your body into a negative calorie balance.

So if you eat a meal and two hours later burn off all the calories that the meal contained, but then still have another three hours to go until your next meal, for those remaining three hours, you're going to be tapping into your body fat stores as a fuel source.

This makes the process of fat loss move along that much more quickly, bringing you the results you desire.

Another interesting point to note is that most people find that once their body is starting to tap into stored fat as a fuel source, hunger does decrease as well. You may initially experience a surge in your hunger level as your body runs out of fuel from the last meal you ate and as it starts to turn to body fat for fuel instead, but once the conversion is made, it's smooth sailing from there.

Note this doesn't apply to all people, but many do find this state to be a powerful appetite suppressant. This means once you are in it, you'll also have fewer thoughts about food as you won't be hungry and will be able to stay in fat-burning mode longer.

Calorie Consumption

Moving on to the next reason why snacking can make you fat is because it's going to increase the incidences during the day when you are eating.

Look at it this way. Each and every time you sit down for a meal or snack, there is the possibility that you will overeating. Whether or not you do will depend on a number of factors such as whether you have excellent self-control, whether you are prompted by food cues, how flavorful the food you are eating are, whether you've just exercised, what the external temperature is, and so on.

Many things are at work when you eat a meal that influence how much you eat. If you're very strict with yourself and your diet, you may serve yourself a portion that you're supposed to and once it's gone, that's it – you don't get any more.

But if you're like many people, you sit down to eat until you're comfortably full.

Now, put this into perspective if you're sitting down to eat six times versus three. With the three-meal-approach, you have three different times when you can overeat during the day. If you do happen to overeat by 100 calories at each meal, that's 300 more than you should have taken in.

If you overeat by 100 calories and sit down to eat six meals on the other hand, now you've overeaten by 600 calories. Do this daily for one week and you've just put on a pound of body fat (or reduced how much you should have lost by one pound).

It adds up quickly. The more opportunities you have to eat more food, the more risky your diet becomes. Most people will only eat so much at a single sitting so if you only sit down three times, your food intake may naturally decrease.

Stress And Anxiety

Finally, the last reason why you might want to consider going for just three meals a day instead of the more frequent six that so many dieters are using right now is because doing so will dramatically reduce the anxiety and stress that you experience.

If you're like most people, you lead a very busy life. As a result of this you likely don't have time to sit down and eat six times a day. But yet you try. In the process though, causing yourself great stress.

You panic if a work meeting runs late and you can't get to your snack (not to mention you'll likely be starving because your breakfast meal was so small). You get upset if you're stuck in traffic and can feel hunger creep up when you know it's time for your dinner meal. And, if a friend invites you out for the afternoon, you immediately start to wonder how you'll either bring your scheduled snack or find something appropriate to eat while out.

All of this stress and anxiety is just going to increase your feelings of being overwhelmed on your diet plan and decrease the chances that you stick with it long term.

Remember, one of the most vital components of success on any diet plan is that you can stick to it. If you're so stressed out about meal planning, meal preparation, and meal frequency, how likely do you think it is that you'll stay the course for longer than a few weeks?

Not likely at all.

So there you have some of the man reasons why you may want to reconsider your snacking habits. While you may have once thought that this was a fast-track to weight loss success, it's time to think that notion. For many people, such frequent snacking is a recipe for disaster and will just set them up to gain weight rather than lose it.

If you're starving between meals and feel light-headed or faint, by all means, have something to eat. But if you aren't hungry and don't desire a snack, don't snack just because you're 'supposed to'. Remove that stress entirely and you might just find you see far greater diet success.

About the author: Shannon is a fitness trainer and freelance writer who has written for Bodybuilding.com.


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