Intermittent fasting vs small meals: Which diet is better for weight loss?

When it comes to optimizing health and managing weight, people choose different routes. Two common strategies that have gained significant interest are intermittent fasting and consuming small, frequent meals throughout the day. While both methods aim to promote weight loss and overall well-being, people often find it difficult to differentiate between these two diet plans because of their contrasting features. According to experts, both methods differ in terms of their approach and potential benefits. But the question is, which one is better for weight loss?

Intermittent fasting vs small meals

Intermittent fasting involves cycles of fasting and eating within specific time windows. On the other side, the small meal diet advocates consuming multiple mini-meals throughout the day to keep the metabolism boosted. To understand which diet plan is better for weight loss while maintaining overall health, Health Shots spoke to Anjana B Nair, Consultant Dietitian, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR Layout, Bengaluru.

Difference between intermittent fasting and small, frequent meals

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

Intermittent fasting for weight loss
Practice intermittent fasting for weight loss. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Intermittent fasting, as the name suggests, involves alternating periods of fasting and eating within a specific 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 for two non-consecutive days), and alternate-day fasting (alternating between fasting days and regular eating days). During the fasting period, no calories or only a minimal amount are consumed, allowing the body to tap into its fat stores for energy. From a medical perspective, it has proven to be helpful in:

1. Weight management: By reducing overall calorie intake, intermittent fasting contributes to weight loss. This approach can assist individuals in controlling their appetite and promote fat burning during fasting periods.

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

3. Cellular repair and longevity: Fasting triggers cellular 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 note that intermittent fasting cannot be taken up for a longer period, and it differs from person to person. With intermittent fasting, you need to consider your food preferences and focus on regular exercise to maintain a steady weight reduction.

Small meals for weight loss

The small, frequent meals approach involves consuming multiple small meals or snacks throughout the day, typically every two to three hours. The 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 providing a steady supply of nutrients throughout the day. This method, unlike intermittent fasting, can be a lifetime food pattern. The potential advantages of it include:

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

blood sugar
Keep a check on blood sugar levels! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Appetite control: Eating small, frequent meals can assist in hunger management and prevent overeating. By providing the body with a continuous supply of nutrients, it reduces the likelihood of excessive snacking. Hence, this pattern of eating can ultimately result in weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Nutrient absorption: The body can effectively process and utilize the nutrients from each meal before the subsequent one is consumed, maximizing nutrient uptake.

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 encourages a calorie deficit by restricting the eating window, making it easier to consume fewer calories overall. Additionally, it may enhance fat burning due to the extended fasting period. 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, reducing the likelihood of indulging in unhealthy snacks or overeating during 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 far better than intermittent fasting for a longer period of time. Unlike intermittent fasting, you can follow a small meal plan throughout your life to manage a healthy weight. It improves satiety, or feeling full after a meal, increases metabolism, prevents dips in energy, stabilizes blood sugar, and prevents overeating.


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