Thursday, August 6, 2009

Examining Meal Frequency

Birthdays, vacations, weddings.

These events are typically diet killers. They are excuses for lack of weight loss progress. They are reasons for people to postpone personal improvement. However, I have experienced each of these in the last six weeks (no, I wasn't the one getting married, but I was in the wedding party) and have still managed to drop eight pounds and 3.5% body fat. How is this possible? I switched from eating the very cliche five to six small meals per day in favor of two large meals.

I mentioned two blogs ago that eating large quantities of fruits and vegetables is probably the first piece of nutrition advice that you'll get when asking almost anyone. Eating five to six small meals per day is probably the second thing people would tell you. There's no shortage of people on the web who advocate this.

However, a little over six weeks ago, I came across a study (see here) that shows people who ate one meal per day actually lost more body fat and were equally as successful in maintaining fat-free mass (muscle, bone, etc.) as those who ate three meals. Both were a surprise to me, especially coming from my strong belief in eating frequent meals to boost metabolism and consume enough protein to maintain muscle mass. Not only did eating one large meal produce better fat loss results, but several health markers were better: lower blood glucose, higher HDLs, and less cortisol (the stress hormone) in the blood. In the study, the subjects ate basically the same macronutrient breakdown. The one meal per day group averaged 2,364 calories per day, and the three meal group average 2,429 per day.

I realize the difference between one and three meals per day may not be the same as the comparison between the frequency change I made (six to two), but the results speak for themselves. I feel great. I've dropped eight pounds and 3.5% body fat. I'm not running around hungry and I'm eating about the same amount of calories that I did with six meals a day (estimated by tracking with NutritionData). Don Matesz of Primal Wisdom (another infrequent meal supporter) stated something very obvious which makes sense of the success: the less you eat, the less insulin you produce.

The study did have one flaw: both groups ate a diet percentage breakdown of 15/36/49 (protein/fat/carbohydrates). I switched the numbers around for my trial to favor fat and minimize carbs (A.K.A. the meat, fish, and vegetable diet). Overall, I think the subject is something we need to take a deeper look into, but in the meantime, I'm not switching back.

1 comment:

:E said...


You got it, buddy. Hope all is well.