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Lots of small meals throughout the day – make you FATTER
I am sure you’ve heard this advice for weight loss, it is pretty pervasive…..
“Eat lots of little meals a day”
It must be scientifically validated.
Turns out – not really. It seems it is based on human LOGIC.
The logic of lots of little meals
The LOGIC, if you are eating lots of little meals,
You aren’t going to be so hungry.
If you’re NOT so hungry, you’ll eat less.
And if you eat less calories, you won’t get fat.
Testing the logic of little meals
A group of researchers decided it was time to test this idea, once and for all.
No easy task………… because SO MANY things can potentially impact weight and proving if something is or isn’t an issue, requires two things.
LOTS of people and a relatively long period of TIME.
Fortunately, the team had access to a set of data, that was perfect for this kind of analysis.
The Adventist Health Study 2
The data comes from a study, being conducted within the north American Adventist Church community, called the “Connecting Lifestyle to Disease and Longevity” study.
This study is tracking the long term health status of 50 660 healthy people.
As part of the study, changes in body weight, have been recorded for a period of 7 years.
Weight change across the years
As you can imagine, during this time period
- some people got fatter,
- some people got thinner and
- some people stayed pretty much the same.
Interestingly, as people have gotten older, their BMI has tended to decrease, this was particularly noticeable in people after the age of 60 years. This probably doesn’t reflect lost fat, so much as LOST MUSCLE. Eish ! Getting old is not for sissies.
Change in BMI
The team did the calculations and established the change in BMI for each person in the study.
NOTE : The numbers are pretty small, because to move your BMI, requires you to typically gain/lose a few kilograms.
Armed with this number, they correlated it with the responses they got to questions, related to meal frequency and timing. This information was gathered as part of the fourth questionnaire of the study.
So what did they find ?
Little meals more weight
When it comes to body weight and meal frequency, the body doesn’t obey human LOGIC. In fact, it does, just the opposite.
People eating more times a day, were “fatter”.
The sweet spot, seems to be at 3 meals a day.
People eating three times a day, maintained their weight over the 7 year period. And in this group of people, this is what most people were doing.
Supporting the old adage of the benefits of
THREE SQUARE MEALS A DAY.
When meal frequency shifted away from the magic number of 3 – weight changed. Both for better or for worse.
Eish ! People eating lots of small meals per day, saw the biggest increase in BMI.
The fasting window
Now one of the consequences of eating less times, during the course of the day, is there is change in how long you end up “fasting” at night. To complete the picture, the team decided to also track changes in BMI, with the length of the night fast.
As expected…………. people eating fewer meals, fasted for longer.
The sweet spot…….. a fast of at least 12 hours.
When the overnight fast was shorter, weight tended to accumulate.
Keep the weight off
This study confirms when you eat, is probably just as important as what you eat. We’ve seen it in multiple animal studies, this confirms the same principle applies to humans.
If you’re weight watching……….
Ditch the snacking.
Aim to eat two or three BIG meals a day and eat your meals, earlier in the day, so you extend your fasting window, to maximize fat burning.
Good news, science has found a way to include chocolate cake and other delicious munchies into a DIET programme without sacrificing
It might sound counterintuitive, but when you’re battling insulin resistance, you don’t want to aim to eat like a bird, you want to eat like a horse. Go BIG.
Stay away from fat and nibble all day – lots of small meals, at regular intervals, are the key to weight management. WRONG !