What Does the Doctor Say: 3 Big Meals or 5 Small Ones?

If you have been believing that eating healthy and hitting the gym are the only important factors for a healthy life, think again.

Here’s the thing we often overlook — meal timings and how often we chow down. It may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it’s important!

It’s not always just about what we eat, but also when we eat it.

Some folks say three big meals are the way to go, while others prefer snacking on five smaller ones.

It’s a hot debate, But hey, don’t fret. Understanding the impact of meal frequency can help you make smarter choices.

So, let’s dig in and figure out what works best for you!

As a medical student, I’m all in for the three-meals-a-day approach, and let me tell you why it is the winner! Here’s the scoop based on my knowledge as a final-year medical student, along with some expert opinions to back me up.

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3 meals and 2 snacks in between and maybe a midnight snack also, I mean what are you doing to your health?

So what happens is, your insulin level goes up and before they get a chance to get down they’re up again and this cycle goes on. So your insulin levels remain high all day long, even right before you go to bed.

Your poor insulin receptors are continuously being bombarded with insulin all the time. So what happens when a receptor gets bombarded all the time? It downregulates, and it doesn’t respond to insulin anymore.

It has been continuously pushing that glucose into the cells, also There is no more room now, those carriages are full now, and you can’t push any more glucose into the cells. The poor insulin can’t do its job now. What is this? That’s Insulin resistance. This study suggests how snacking in between meals leads to insulin resistance.

So what causes insulin resistance? It is insulin itself.

What made too much insulin? You stimulated it too much by eating frequently.

Now when you develop insulin resistance, it leads to the onset of Type 2 diabetes by impairing the body’s ability to effectively regulate blood sugar.

In addition to diabetes, insulin resistance is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Furthermore, insulin resistance can contribute to weight gain and make it difficult to lose excess weight.

Now, how to become sensitive to insulin again?

By having significant gaps between meals.

Let me break it down for you in plain and simple terms, fasting or having big gaps between meals gives your body a much-needed break. It’s like hitting the reset button!

When you fast, your insulin levels drop, and that’s a good thing. It’s like waking up your body’s superpowers!

When your body becomes more sensitive to insulin, it means it starts responding better to even small amounts of it. So, your body doesn’t have to produce a ton of insulin anymore because it’s doing the job with just a little bit.

And here’s where something interesting happens, with lower insulin levels, your body switches gears and taps into its fat stores for energy. It’s like a treasure trove of fuel right there in your body.

So, instead of relying solely on the food you eat, your body starts munching on those stored fats to keep you going.

So, fasting not only gives your body a break and enhances insulin sensitivity, but it also helps your body become a fat-burning machine.

And when you shed those extra pounds, it can lower your risk of obesity-related conditions like diabetes.

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Check out these advantages that will make you rethink your eating routine:

  • First off, our bodies aren’t built for non-stop digestion. Slamming down five meals a day can put a constant strain on our poor digestive systems. Give them a break.
  • Secondly, feeling a bit hungry for a few hours won’t hurt you. In fact, recent studies are all about the perks of periodic hunger. It turns out, intermittent fasting works wonders! It enhances your cells’ insulin sensitivity, keeps your blood sugar levels in check, and even lowers the risk of diabetes.
  • Also when you fast, your body kicks into gear and starts pumping out sirtuins. These proteins are like superheroes that promote longevity. Who doesn’t want that, right?
  • Fasting also triggers autophagy. This fancy word simply means that your cells clean house and get rid of unnecessary junk. It’s like a natural detox that keeps diseases at bay and slows down the aging process.

Here are some expert opinions supporting the 3 meals per day idea:

World-renowned nutrition expert, Dr. Eric Serrano agrees that most people would be better off sticking with 3 meals per day.

“The liver has a 4-hour clock and when we eat more frequently than this, we break the body’s natural digestive rhythm.”

Serrano recommends eating at 8 am, 12 pm, and 5 p.m. “This matches our natural circadian rhythm. Eating more often than this makes our liver work harder to create bile and also taxes the pancreas. We just weren’t meant to eat 5, 6, 7 times per day.”

Sachin Panda, professor at the Salk Institute believes that people improve their metabolic health by eating within a daily 8–10 hour window.

Panda said:

“The gut has a clock that regulates the daily flow of enzymes, the absorption of nutrients, and the removal of waste. These daily rhythms are so ingrained that they are programmed in our DNA. Eating too frequently can disrupt this rhythm leading to insulin resistance, digestive issues, and weight gain”

Dr. Pradip Jamnadas, a Cardiologist:

Dr. Pradip suggests that intermittent fasting can be beneficial for heart health. Research indicates that frequent snacking and irregular eating patterns may contribute to weight gain and an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.

Here I want to clarify one thing.

Does eating five meals a day really speed up metabolism?

It is often believed that frequent and small meals make the body burn more calories. However, there is no proof of this.

After-meal thermogenesis, which is the increased calorie burning after eating, is dependent on the total number of calories consumed, rather than the portion size or frequency of meals.

Whether you have three meals of 600 kcal each or five meals of 360 kcal each, the body’s calorie burn remains the same. Many studies have compared the metabolic rate with the number of calories used when eating smaller and more frequent meals versus larger and less frequent meals, where the total calorie content of the diet throughout the day was the same.

The conclusion is clear: 5 meals a day does not raise the metabolic rate and does not increase the amount of fat burned.

Who would benefit from 5 meals per day?


Individuals with high energy requirements, such as hard-training athletes or those with substantial muscle mass, need more calories to support muscle maintenance, optimize hormone function, and support immune health.

Overtraining and inadequate nutrition can negatively impact hormone balance and immune function in these individuals.

Those Trying To Gain Weight

If you’re trying to gain weight, eating small frequent meals can help by increasing your overall energy and nutrient intake.

They are particularly beneficial for individuals with poor appetite, digestive issues, or unintentional weight loss, as they can make eating more comfortable and manageable. This approach is often recommended by dietitians, especially for those with illnesses affecting appetite.

People Having Digestive Issues

If you have digestive issues such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, smaller meals may be easier to digest than larger ones.

It is recommended to consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine the best types of foods for your specific condition and to receive personalized dietary guidance.

Pregnant Women

If someone is pregnant, she needs to make sure she is getting enough nutrients for both her and the baby.

In the third trimester, eating small frequent meals may help alleviate heartburn caused by indigestion, as the baby takes up more space in the abdomen. Consuming smaller portions at a time can help prevent discomfort.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals can be a practical and manageable approach to meet your nutritional needs during this time.

So, the bottom line is this, don’t be afraid of giving your belly a break. Embrace intermittent fasting and let your body reap the fantastic benefits. It’s time to put those hunger pangs to good use.

Since you’re cutting back on the number of meals, make each of those meals count and opt for foods that are dense in nutrients and satisfying.

Once you’ve got the timing down, it’s time to focus on quality. Choose whole, nutrient-rich foods that nourish your body and keep you feeling satisfied. Load up on fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Give your body the fuel it needs to thrive!

I appreciate your Attention. Your suggestions or feedback related to it are more than welcome in the comment section.

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