Intermittent Fasting Vs. Small Meals For Weight Loss?

Weight loss is a challenging task that requires consistent effort. From working out for hours to staying away from favourite foods, this demands a lot of sacrifices. Our diet plays a crucial role in weight management. Keeping an eye on what we eat, at what time, and the quantity of food on our plates is the key to achieving our desired goal. In the pursuit of weight loss, various strategies and dietary approaches have emerged over the years. Among them, two popular methods that have gained considerable attention are intermittent fasting and frequent small meals. While both approaches are known for weight loss, let's find out which one is better.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?  

Intermittent fasting is a type of diet that involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. This method typically includes approaches like the 16/8 method, where individuals fast for 16 hours and restrict their eating to an 8-hour window, or the 5:2 method, which involves eating normally for five days and significantly reducing calorie intake on the remaining two days.  

What Is A Small-Meal Diet?

This approach includes consuming small, frequent, and healthy meals throughout the day, which is a dietary strategy often recommended by nutritionists and fitness experts. This approach suggests eating smaller portions at regular intervals, typically every 2-3 hours, to maintain steady energy levels and prevent overeating.

Foods That Can Become A Part Of These Diets?

According to Healthline, intermittent fasting must include nutritious and whole foods like fruits, broccoli, sprouts, leafy greens, whole grains, olive oil, eggs, and meat. Beverages like unsweetened coffee and tea can also be included in this diet. The ideal portion size for intermittent fasting is 500–600 calories per meal, but you can increase the count; just do not go overboard with eating.

Whereas, according to WebMD, there are no such restrictions for the types of foods consumed, but they must be regulated to tiny helpings in a balanced manner in a small-portion diet. Carbs, meat, frozen foods, and sweets can also become a part of this diet; you just have to pay attention to the calorie intake and eat at the right intervals. Though you can choose your own foods, it is recommended to include lean proteins, nuts, fruits, green vegetables, legumes, and whole grains in the small-meal diet. The portion size of small meals is approximately 200–300 calories per meal.

It is always recommended to consult your healthcare provider about including lifestyle changes in your food and getting clarity about how to go about Intermittent fasting, a small-portion meal plan, or any other diet before you begin following it with limited knowledge.

The Difference Between Intermittent Fasting And Small Meals 

Caloric Intake  

With intermittent fasting, the emphasis is on controlling overall calorie intake by restricting the eating window. According to Healthline, by shortening the time available for eating, individuals often consume fewer calories, creating the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss. The small meal approach, on the other hand, focuses on portion control and eating smaller amounts at each meal, but the overall daily calorie intake may still remain similar to a traditional eating pattern. According to WebMD, consuming fewer calories every 3 hours boosts the body’s fat burning potential. 

Hormonal And Metabolic Effects  

Intermittent fasting has been associated with hormonal changes in the body. During fasting periods, human growth hormone (HGH) levels tend to increase, which can promote fat-burning and muscle preservation. According to Healthline, it also improves insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation, which positively impacts weight management.

Consuming small, frequent meals throughout the day may help maintain stable blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes and promoting steady energy levels. According to Medical News Today, eating every 2-3 hours can help boost metabolism. However, the hormonal and metabolic effects may not be as pronounced as with intermittent fasting.

Adherence And Lifestyle

Adherence to a particular method is crucial for successful weight loss. Intermittent fasting requires discipline in adhering to specific fasting and eating windows. Some individuals find it easier to maintain due to the structure and clear guidelines it provides. On the other hand, consuming small, frequent meals may be more suitable for individuals who prefer regular eating intervals and have a lifestyle that allows for multiple meals throughout the day. 

The bottom line here is that both intermittent fasting and small, frequent meals can be effective strategies for weight loss. The choice between the two depends on individual factors such as preferences, lifestyle, and the ability to sustain the chosen method in the long run. Consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian is advisable before adopting any weight loss programme to ensure it suits your specific needs and goals.