Healthy Living

Why Three Square Meals is Wrong for Weight Loss

Ignore the old advice. Eating “three square meals” is NOT the best way to lose fat and keep it off. Eating five meals a day is actually ideal for weight loss.

Conventional wisdom and even some well-respected diet programs recommend three daily meals for weight loss. Many people who are trying to cut calories eat just one or two meals. But here’s our experience with more than 100,000 IdealShape customers: anything less than five meals a day opens the door to fat gain.

That’s because what usually happens is excessive hunger between meals or (let’s be honest) unplanned snacking.

Why Going Hungry Always Backfires (3 Reasons)

Reason 1: When you fail to give your body the calories it needs, you send it into starvation mode. Even if you eat three meals a day, if there’s a big gap between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, you can trigger the body to hoard calories. When you finally do eat, your body thinks it needs to stockpile that precious energy as fat.

Reason 2: Go hungry a little longer, and your body may resort to using your lean muscle for energy (it’s gotta get fuel from somewhere). Lean muscle mass helps the body burn fat, so if it gets gobbled up, you’re going to burn fat less and less efficiently.

Reason 3: When you consider all of this, and then you add a big high-calorie evening meal — like most daytime calorie-restrictors do — you’re giving your body a pile of calories that are there to stay.

So you can see how big meal gaps spell trouble for fat loss. And then you’ve got this to worry about…

The Unplanned Snack Trap

Not all of us are “really” starving ourselves when we cut back on our meals. More likely, we’re making trips to the vending machines, dipping into coworkers’ candy stashes, raiding the chips in the cupboard, and indulging in sodas and energy drinks.

Those 2,000 non-meal calories? Yeah, those count.

(Side note: when we’re hungry, we’re more likely to crave junk food!)

Enter: five meals a day. By spreading your calories out in small, low-calorie portions, you’re empowered to avoid:

  • Metabolism screeching to a halt
  • Increased fat storage
  • Burning valuable lean muscle as energy
  • Big meals later in the day that don’t get burned off
  • Unplanned snacking on the wrong foods
Jenna LeachSo what can you eat at those five meals?

IdealShape products were designed to support five meals a day because we know it’s the most powerful way to shed fat. Just ask IdealShape Challenge winner Jenna Leach: after her husband was deployed in the military, she gained 65 pounds in baby weight with her second pregnancy. She lost it all on a plan that included five meals a day, two of which were an IdealShake.

Update: last month Jenna gave birth to her third baby (congrats Jenna!!) and only gained 25 pounds through this pregnancy! One month after giving birth, she’s already lost that 25 pounds without exercise. She told us she did it simply by eating five meals a day, which included: an IdealShake for breakfast, an IdealBar as a morning snack, and another IdealShake as her second snack of the day.

Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert

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