Intermittent Fasting vs. Small Meals: Which Diet Is Better for Weight Loss?

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When it comes to optimizing health and managing weight, people take different paths. Two common strategies that have gained a lot of interest are intermittent fasting and eating small, frequent meals throughout the day. While both methods are intended to promote weight loss and overall well-being, people often have a hard time distinguishing between these two diet plans due to their contrasting properties. According to experts, the two methods differ in approach and potential benefits. But the question is, which one is better for weight loss?

Intermittent fasting versus small meals

Intermittent fasting it involves cycles of fasting and eating in specific time windows. On the other hand, the small-meal diet advocates eating several small meals throughout the day to speed up the metabolism. To understand which diet plan is better for weight loss while maintaining overall health, Health Shots spoke to Anjana B Nair, Consultant Dietetics, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR Layout, Bengaluru.

The difference between intermittent fasting and small, frequent meals

Both intermittent fasting and small, frequent meals have their pros and cons, but their effectiveness depends on the individual’s goals, body type, metabolism, etc.

Practice intermittent fasting for weight loss. Image credit: Adobe Stock

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Intermittent fasting, as the name suggests, involves alternating periods of fasting and eating within a certain time frame. The most popular fasting methods include the 16/8 method (16 hours of fasting and an 8-hour eating window), the 5:2 diet (eating normally for five days and significantly reducing calorie intake on two non-consecutive days), and alternate day fasting (alternating between fasting days and ​usual eating days). During the fasting period, no or minimal calories are consumed, allowing the body to draw energy from fat stores. Medically, it has been shown to be beneficial in:

1. Regulating body weight: Intermittent fasting helps reduce overall calorie intake weight loss. This approach can help individuals control their appetite and promote fat burning during periods of fasting.

2. Insulin sensitivity: Intermittent fasting has shown promise in improving insulin sensitivity. This is especially beneficial for individuals with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, as stabilized insulin levels can lead to better blood sugar control.

3. Cell Repair and Longevity: Fasting triggers cell repair processes such as autophagy, in which cells remove damaged components. This cellular renewal has been linked to potential improvements in longevity and protection against age-related diseases.

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It is important to know that intermittent fasting cannot be done for a long period of time and varies from person to person. Intermittent fasting requires you to consider your food preferences and focus on regular exercise to maintain steady weight loss.

Small meals for weight loss

The Small Frequent Meals approach involves eating several small meals or snacks throughout the day, usually every two to three hours. Meals are usually balanced, consisting of lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruits or vegetables. The goal of small meals is to keep the metabolism active and prevent hunger pangs by ensuring a steady supply of nutrients throughout the day. This method, unlike intermittent fasting, can be a lifelong eating pattern. Its potential benefits include:

1. Blood sugar regulation: Regular, small meals help maintain blood sugar levels throughout the day by ensuring an even supply of nutrients. This approach supports consistent energy levels.

blood sugar
Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly! Image credit: Adobe Stock

2. Appetite control: Eating small, frequent meals can help control hunger and prevent overeating. As it provides the body with a continuous supply of nutrients, it reduces the likelihood of excessive snacking. Therefore, this eating pattern can ultimately lead to weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Absorption of nutrients: The body can efficiently process and use the nutrients from each meal before eating the next, increasing nutrient intake.

Which diet is best for weight loss?

Weight loss is a common goal for many individuals, and both intermittent fasting and small meals can be effective strategies. Intermittent fasting promotes a caloric deficit by limiting the eating window, making it easier to eat fewer calories overall. In addition, it can increase fat burning due to the extended period of fasting. Small meals, on the other hand, focus on portion control and can prevent overeating by providing regular, controlled amounts of food. Small, frequent meals can also help individuals feel satisfied throughout the day by reducing the likelihood of unhealthy snacking or overeating between main meals.

While the choice between intermittent fasting and small meals depends on individual preferences, lifestyle, and specific health goals, a small-meal diet plan is much better than intermittent fasting for a longer period of time. Unlike intermittent fasting, you can follow a small meal plan for a lifetime to maintain a healthy weight. It improves satiety or the feeling of fullness after a meal, increases metabolism, prevents energy drops, stabilizes blood sugar and prevents overeating.

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