Here, we examine the benefits—and pitfalls—of three popular ways to eat.
Diet Plan: Six small meals
You eat small, 300-calorie meals six times a day. The problem: It’s easy to overeat. “Many people think that every meal has to be a balanced mix of protein, starch, and veggies, but that’s when those meals become too big,” says Aragon. Not to mention, 300 calories looks puny on your plate.
Try this: Eat three smaller-sized meals with three snacks. You’ll keep calories down and still be able to graze throughout the day. (For more ways to turn fat into muscle, follow these 9 Weight-Loss Rules.)
Diet Plan: Fasting
Aragon’s clients choose a “window” of eating, say from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., to stuff in all of their calories. The remaining hours are spent fasting. It’s successful because “you shave one to two meals off your day without consciously restricting calories. You can basically eat with abandon during this time,” says Aragon. The catch? Social obligations can be awkward (try explaining to business associates why you’re not eating lunch).
Try this: If you workout in the morning, drink a small protein shake (one or two scoops of whey) before heading to the gym to hold you over during the day. Plan balanced meals during your eating window—not a triple cheeseburger—to ensure you’re getting sufficient nutrients.
Diet Plan: Three squares a day
Eating three square 600-calorie meals a day “actually works best for most dieters who aren’t vigorously exercising,” says Aragon. (Competitive athletes need a pre- or post-workout snack to sustain them.) One common flub: The lag between lunch and dinner is six or seven hours, prime time to get too hungry and binge at dinner.
Try this: If you’re hungry in the afternoon, have a small snack—like an apple, stick of string cheese, small handful of almonds, or any of these 5 Nutritious, Filling Foods—two hours before dinner to curb hunger. Just make sure to scale your dinner down accordingly.