Sunday, June 19, 2011


Everyone and every book or magazine will tell you eat more frequent smaller meals for fat loss success! Well like so many things so universally agreed upon …...... ITS WRONG! No matter how many meals the body gets through the day, the only thing that really what matters for fat loss is the total calories consumed. I'm sure as of this second your thinking..........the opinion of one contrarian lunatic has no bearing on me, read on.................I DARE YOU!

After taking the time to search the last 50 years of scientific literature, I found about seven studies that make the conclusion that more meals per day have some kind of metabolic advantage over less frequent feedings1-7 . I have seen many of these studies cited over and over again as references supporting the many meal hypothesis, i can only assume people don't read references!.

After reading the studies I noticed a big recurring problem. Four of the studies came from the 50s, 60s and early 70s and were very poorly controlled by researchers1-4. In none of the other five did the researchers control total calorie consumption5-9 (yes you read that correctly.....a diet study that didn't control caloric intake!) but yet they still came to the conclusion that eating more frequent meals increases metabolism and aids in losing weight and fat loss.

When I went through the research, I found 29 studies where researchers tested every feasible number of meals, from 1 to 10 per day, carefully controlling total daily caloric intake10-38. In all 29 studies, the result was the same: the number of meals eaten per day didn’t matter for fat or weight loss, only the total calories intake had an effect on body composition and total mass (body weight).

Even after putting people in locked boxes called whole-body calorimeters to get precise measurements of metabolism to find a difference between eating a few big meals and many small meals, again, no change in metabolism, energy expenditure or fat metabolism was detected. The number of meals per day didn’t even affect what type of weight the participants lost, all of the test subjects lost the same amount of body weight and the same amount of fat (proportional to total weight loss) regardless of meal frequency or structure.

Why is the many meal hypotheses so obviously wrong you ask? The human body (as well as almost any life form that has survived natural selection processes) copes well with long spans of no food. The signals triggered by starvation (the ones that supposedly kick in after only a couple hours of not eating) take roughly three or four days of very low calories to activate39-48. The entire premise from which this idea is built is wrong.People just want to have belief in the romanticized (and stupid) idea that their body has some latent desire to be skinny and athletic.

It turns out that longer stretches between meals makes the body release more fat to be burned as fuel27, 28, 37, 49, 51. Frequent feedings may actually slow resting metabolism50 and lower another component of metabolism called the thermic effect of food51-54.
In review of the studies using multiple meals, more people quit because of having to eat too often rather than not enough food. The subjects found eating many meals inconvenient, and this despite having all their meals made and delivered to them by the people conducting the study30, 31, 33.

I’m not saying eating frequently isn’t without its uses. If you’re trying to create a bodybuilding type anabolic environment, then meal frequency can be very important. Many of these studies (and others) show the importance of eating on a schedule for logistical advantages. Eating at the same time each day has been shown to increases insulin sensitivity55 in many cases. Multi-meals has been shown to improve hunger control in some subjects and therefore could have limited use for people with questionable self control and or eating disorders56, 57.



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