If you are looking for a way to encourage your body to lose weight faster, switching to a two meal a day eating plan may give you the edge you want. In this post, I explain the weight loss advantages that you get when you eat twice a day, how to time your meals to maximize weight loss, and what those meals might look like.
2 Meals a Day Summary
- Myth #1: Eating only two times a day will harm your metabolism.
- Fact: Research shows no significant metabolic advantage to eating frequent small meals versus fewer large meals.
- Myth #2: Hunger will be hard to manage when meals are infrequent.
- Fact: Research shows that when a low-frequency diet (3x/day) is compared to a high-frequency diet (14x/day), hunger is reduced, and satiety and fullness ratings are increased.
- Advantage #1: When you restrict your food intake to two meals a day, you avoid mindless snacking, which in turn helps you naturally lower your calorie intake and lose weight.
- Advantage #2: Restricting your food to twice daily helps keep your insulin levels low, further encouraging fat loss.
- For the best weight loss results, create two meals that are filled with healthy fats, protein, and non-starchy vegetables.
- Finishing your two meals earlier in the day can increase insulin sensitivity, improving fat loss.
- A 2 meal a day diet plan can be followed daily or used to control weight during special occasions or while on vacation.
Two Meals a Day for Faster Weight Loss [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Two myths about eating two meals a day and the facts that disprove them!
- Advantages to eating two meals a day.
- What and when to eat!
2 Meal a Day Myths
Reducing your food intake to two times a day may feel like a risky thing to do because of a couple of myths about eating less often. One concern is that you will go into starvation mode and wreck your metabolism. Another is that you’ll get too hungry, resulting in rebound overeating.
Will Eating 2 Meals a Day Hurt My Metabolism?
Let’s start with the impact reducing your food intake to twice a day has on your metabolism. The established belief is that eating small frequent meals gives your metabolism consistent bumps up throughout the day. And therefore, if you eat less frequently, you lose that advantage or, even worse, harm your metabolism.
Your metabolic rate measures how many calories your body burns within a set period. When you eat, you get a metabolic bump because digestion requires a lot of energy, which in turn produces heat. That heat-producing reaction is known as the thermic effect of food, and it raises your metabolism above your normal level.
However, how much of a bump your metabolism gets depends on the total amount of food you consume. For instance, if you eat 1,500 calories throughout the day, the thermic effect that you get from digesting that food will be the same whether you split those calories between six small meals or two large ones.
This has been backed up by research that shows there is no significant metabolic advantage of frequent small meals versus fewer large meals (1).
Will Hunger be a Problem with 2 Meals a Day?
As long as you are consuming sufficient calories, you will not harm your metabolism. However, what about hunger? We are awake for about 16 hours, so if you cut back to two meals, there will be many non-eating hours in your day, raising concerns that you’ll get too hungry and eventually overeat.
One surprising study challenges the notion that eating frequently satisfies hunger better than less frequent eating. In this study, a group of healthy men underwent two diet interventions. For one study period, they ate three meals a day. For the second period, they were fed the same foods split over 14 meals, so they were eating something almost every hour they were awake.
You would think that the participants would report that they felt more hunger satisfaction when they ate every hour. However, the opposite was true. When measured throughout the day, hunger was reduced, and satiety and fullness ratings were increased in the low-frequency diet compared to the high-frequency diet (2).
I am not saying that you will not experience hunger if you reduce your food intake to 2 meals a day. However, I hope this study helps to alleviate some fears about trying this diet strategy.
With those myths behind us, let’s look at the weight loss advantages of eating 2 meals a day.
2 Meals a Day Weight Loss Advantages
2 Meals a Day Naturally Lowers Calorie Intake
The first advantage may be the most obvious to us. When you compartmentalize your food intake, you avoid mindless snacking, helping you naturally lower your calorie intake and lose weight. This factor can be easily overlooked because many of us would not identify ourselves as being mindless eaters.
However, research shows that more than 50% of us consume calories all day long, from the cream in our morning coffee to the soda or sweet tea after lunch to the quick snacks before and after dinner. With a two meal a day eating plan, these extra calories are avoided.
2 Meals a Day & Lower Insulin
Restricting your food to twice daily can also keep your insulin levels low, further encouraging fat loss. As you know, your body needs energy every hour of the day. You can take in energy from food or withdraw it from storage units like body fat. So as the day goes on, you are either depositing energy or withdrawing it. When you eat, energy gets stored. When you don’t eat, energy is released.
The conductor of this storage-and-release symphony is insulin, which you can think of as your fat-storing hormone. When insulin is elevated in your blood, your body is in fat-storing mode. When it is low, your body is in fat-burning mode. Insulin levels rise when you eat. When you fast, insulin levels drop, making it easier for fat to be released from fat cells.
You can keep this lower insulin advantage going by making good food choices for your 2 meals.
What to Eat for 2 Meals a Day
For the best weight loss results, create two meals that are filled with healthy fats, protein, and non-starchy vegetables. The vegetables will provide hunger-satisfying volume, and the nutrients will prevent insulin spikes, keeping you in fat-burning mode for more hours of the day.
Non-starchy vegetables are generally less dense than starchy vegetables, so think of salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and asparagus. Foods that contain a good mix of fat and protein include meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, nuts, and seeds.
This is an abbreviated list of foods, but from this list, you can get an idea of what to eat for your 2 meals a day diet. For instance, you could have a salad for lunch and meat or fish with a side vegetable for dinner. Each of these meals will provide the nutrients and volume that your body thrives on.
How Much to Eat
You’ll notice that each of the recipes linked above provide 500 calories, adding up to just 1,000 calories for the day. That will be too low for most of you, but you can build on these meals. For instance, you can add salmon or chicken to the salad and have a larger serving of the dinner meal.
Allowing yourself to eat larger meals can be a challenging mental hurdle to overcome, with the concern being that eating too many calories at one time will cause fat to be stored. It is true that calories that are not needed immediately will be stored as fat. However, this is not a bad thing and does not defeat your overall goal of losing weight.
Think of your body as a gas tank. If you eat a big meal, your body will hold onto that energy as you move through your day. When your body has a need, the stored energy is released, and you keep going until you refuel with your second meal of the day.
So storing fat is not a problem. In fact, it’s a survival factor. We would not live very long if we could not store fat. Still, it pays to be wise about your food intake. If you are using this two meal a day strategy to lose weight, it will not be effective if you are eating a big piece of cake and ice cream for dessert every night. In that case, you are storing more energy than you need.
Stick with low carb, high fat foods, and you’ll get the best results. If you’d like a good list of food choices, you can download my list of 100 low-carb foods.
When to Eat Your 2 Meals for the Day
Having a list of acceptable foods to choose from makes it easier to pick your meals. You can then work on maximizing your results by playing with the timing of your meals. For weight loss and better health, it is a good idea to stop eating at least three hours before bed.
If you have trouble losing weight, you can give yourself an extra edge by allowing more time between your last meal and bedtime. This is a strategy known as early time restricted eating (eTRE). It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which can improve fat loss (3).
You may want to consider having breakfast and lunch and fasting for the remainder of the day. Also, keep in mind that you can vary your routine. As long as you are taking in enough calories, there is no problem following a two meal a day diet every day or varying your meal times.
However, you don’t need to use this strategy daily to benefit from it. For instance, you could use this strategy for special occasions or as a way to control your weight on vacation.
My husband and I do this when we travel. For example, if we stay at a hotel that serves a complimentary breakfast, we have a large meal in the morning and then enjoy a nice dinner later in the day.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Bellisle, France, Regina McDevitt, and Andrew M. Prentice. “Meal frequency and energy balance.” British journal of nutrition 77.S1 (1997): S57-S70.
(2) Munsters, Marjet JM, and Wim HM Saris. “Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males.” PloS one 7.6 (2012): e38632.
(3) Sutton, Elizabeth F., et al. “Early time-restricted feeding improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and oxidative stress even without weight loss in men with prediabetes.” Cell metabolism 27.6 (2018): 1212-1221.