Is intermittent fasting better than portion control for weight loss? What experts aren’t telling you

Two popular approaches have gained significant attention in seeking effective weight loss strategies: intermittent fasting and consuming small, frequent meals or portion control [1].

These dietary regimens present distinct philosophies, but which one reigns supreme when shedding those unwanted pounds?

Intermittent fasting is a diet strategy that revolves around alternating periods of eating and fasting. Instead of the typical three meals daily, individuals practicing intermittent fasting restrict their eating to specific time windows.

The most common forms include the 16/8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window, and the 5:2 method, involving two non-consecutive days of extreme calorie restriction.

On the other hand, the small meals approach promotes regular, portion-controlled eating throughout the day. This method aims to rev up your metabolism by supplying a constant stream of nutrients, preventing extreme hunger or energy crashes.

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Let’s compare intermittent fasting and small meals to see how they measure up against each other [2]:

Weight loss mechanism:

Intermittent fasting: Proponents argue that it taps into the body’s fat stores for energy during fasting, promoting weight loss. Moreover, it can help control calorie intake since there are fewer opportunities to eat within restricted time frames.

Small meals: Advocates for small, frequent meals believe that by maintaining a consistent supply of nutrients, you can stabilize blood sugar levels and curb overeating, making it easier to manage weight.

Metabolic effects:

Intermittent fasting: Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting can lead to improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation and changes in hormones related to fat metabolism, all of which can support weight loss efforts [34].

Small meals: Small, frequent meals can help prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, but they may not directly contribute to weight loss [56].

Adherence and lifestyle:

Intermittent fasting: For many, intermittent fasting can be challenging due to the extended fasting periods. However, it offers flexibility in meal timing, making it adaptable to various lifestyles.

Small meals: Eating small meals throughout the day may be more manageable for those who prefer frequent, balanced intake but can be less practical in work or social situations.


Intermittent fasting: Sustainability can vary widely among individuals. Some may find intermittent fasting easier to adhere to long-term, while others might struggle with the fasting periods.

Small meals: The small meals approach can be sustainable, but it requires consistent planning and portion control, which may become tedious for some over time.

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Hunger and appetite:

Intermittent fasting: Extended fasting periods may trigger hunger, especially in the beginning. However, proponents claim that appetite tends to subside as the body adapts to the fasting schedule.

Small Meals: Consuming small, frequent meals can help manage hunger and prevent intense cravings, making it easier to control calorie intake.

In conclusion, intermittent fasting and small, frequent meals have merits and drawbacks regarding weight loss. The choice between the two should depend on individual preferences, lifestyle and the ability to adhere to the regimen.

Intermittent fasting may benefit fat metabolism and insulin sensitivity but may not suit everyone due to fasting periods. In contrast, the small meals approach provides a steady stream of nutrients throughout the day, which can help control appetite and blood sugar but may require meticulous planning.

Ultimately, the most effective diet for weight loss is the one that aligns with your personal preferences and can be sustained over the long term.

Consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can provide tailored guidance and ensure your chosen dietary approach supports your overall health goals.

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