Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Meal Frequency: Eat 4-6 Meals Per Day!

"The best food and olive oil are stored up in the houses of wise people. But a foolish man eats up everything he has."
- Proverbs 21:20

I'm sure you've heard that you should eat 4-6 meals per day when embarking on a fat loss program or health and fitness routine.

The reason it's important to eat 4-6 small meals per day is to help keep your metabolism elevated and to provide the body a steady stream of nutrients, including amino acids from protein-containing foods.

Research proves that small, frequent meals are better than two or three larger meals. Here are a few studies that Alwyn Cosgrove recently posted on his blog.

(1) A study from 2003:

Louis-Sylvestre et al.

Highlighting the positive impact of increasing feeding frequency on metabolism and weight management.

Forum Nutr. 2003;56:126-8. Review

This one showed that adults who were accustomed to eating 4 meals a day gained bodyfat and weight when switched to 3 meals a day (despite calories remaining the same). There are several other studies that show the same thing.

A 2006 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating 6 times per day was associated with eating fewer calories per day, lowering cholesterol levels and lowering post-meal insulin levels.

Conclusion: It seems that meal frequency is an important tool.

(2) A study from 1957:

Kekwick and Pawan

Metabolic study in human obesity with isocaloric diets high in fat, protein or carbohydrate.

Metabolism. 1957 Sep;6(5):447-60

This study compared THREE hypocaloric diets:

1000 cals at 90% fat: subjects lost 0.9lbs per day

1000 cals at 90% protein: lost 0.6lbs per day

1000 cals – 90% carbs – actually gained slightly (not really significant though).

Conclusion: It's not just about the calories! There does seem to be an advantage to adjusting the macronutrients.

(3) And finally one more from 2003:

Greene, P., Willett, W., Devecis, J., et al.,

Pilot 12-Week Feeding Weight-Loss Comparison: Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate (Ketogenic) Diets," Abstract Presented at The North American Association for the Study of Obesity Annual Meeting 2003

Obesity Research, 11S, 2003, page 95OR.

Three groups on different diets for 12 weeks:

Low fat/low cal (1800 cals per day) diet: Lost on average 17 lbs

Low carb/higher cal (+300) group: Lost on average 20 lbs.

But when they combined low carbs AND low calories (1800 again) - that group lost 23lbs.

Conclusion: It might not be just about the calories - but calories STILL count!

So we see that increased meal frequency and the amount and types of calories consumed do indeed affect fat loss.

The easiest way to begin eating more frequent, small meals is to make sure you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and add two small snacks per day. It can look like this:

8am - Breakfast

11am - Snack (apple and 2 tbsp natural peanut butter)

1pm - Lunch

4pm - Snack (cottage cheese and fruit)

5-7pm - Workout (be sure to have a protein shake or at least some chocolate milk after your workout)

6-8pm - Dinner

For ideas on other snacks and meals, feel free to contact me!