Anyone who has tried to lose weight has heard this before: instead of eating three big meals at specific times, eat 5-6 smaller meals, or ‘graze’ throughout the day.
The reasoning behind this is twofold:
- So that your metabolism will continue burn high all day. The argument being since your body is getting calories throughout the day, it will not go into starvation mode and store excess calories as fat.
- So, that you don’t feel hungry and end up over-eating.
I can’t tell you how many diet experts swear by this, I have literally read this a thousand times and accepted it as gospel.
Sounds good…in theory…
However, a new study recently published in the journal, Obesity, came up with some very different results.
The study took –place at Purdue University in Indiana, and 37 overweight or obese men took part in the study.
Stage One: Establishing the Control
Subjects were divided randomly into two groups:
Group A received a high-protein diet plan (about 25% of total calories from protein)
Group B received a mid-level protein diet (about 14 percent protein)
All of the participants were expected to adhere to their new plans for 12 full weeks.
Both diet plans contained 750 fewer calories than the men needed to maintain their weights. Therefore, feelings of hunger should’ve started up quickly and frequently in all of the testers.
No instructions were given as to the frequency of meals…
Stage Two: Testing Meal Frequency
Starting at week seven, the men (who stayed on the same diet plans) were asked to change the frequency of eating.
Some participants were asked to eat three meals per day, with meals spaced five hours apart.
Others were asked to eat a small meal every two hours, for a total of six meals per day. The participants stuck to one method for three consecutive days, then switched to the other plan for three days.
The men reported their results after the 12 week period had ended.
For the men on the high-level protein diet (25% – which a lot of weight loss experts would consider mid level), eating 3 meals a day kept them more satiated than eating 6 smaller meals a day. They were actually less hungry during meal times, and they thought about food less…
More importantly, they had less of an urge to snack at night – a big deal.
However for men on the lower protein diet, the meal frequency did not seem to make any difference at all…
Another interesting result of the study is that overall the men on the higher protein diet felt less hungry between meal times than the lower protein group.
More Questions than Answers
Like most of our articles it brings up more questions than answers.
Just writing out loud here…
Did the lower protein diet simply not supply enough protein to cause satiation? Making meal frequency irrelevant? This is speculative, but makes some sense. Did the subjects on the higher protein diet who ate three meals a day actually lose more weight than the folks on the high frequency diet? I think this may be important!!!
And obviously it would be interesting to see if the results were the same for women and for different types of diets…
And of course it would be nice to see a more long term approach.
The Battle Resumes:
This study is far from conclusive, but it does add new ripples to the 3 meals versus 6 meals debate. I would love to hear what you think about this as I know there are a lot of strong opinions out there! Please comment below.
Source: Heather J. Leidy, Minghua Tang, Cheryl L.H. Armstrong, Carmen B. Martin and Wayne W. Campbell, The Effects of Consuming Frequent, Higher Protein Meals on Appetite and Satiety During Weight Loss in Overweight/Obese Men, Obesity , (16 September 2010)
As part of my commitment to staying current on the research, I have stumbled upon two pretty important pieces of research that may surprise you. So let’s get to it.
1. As Long as You Don’t Add Sugar, You can Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight…
A popular myth is that you can drink clear alcohol and as long as you count the calories in the alcohol (7 calories per gram) you will be fine. Because carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram – the reasoning is that 7 calories in alcohol are simply calories and nothing more.
Well, according to research carried in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, alcohol puts the brakes on fat metabolism (your body’s ability to burn fat as energy) in more ways than one. In the study, eight people were given two vodka drinks separated by 30 minutes.
Fat metabolism was checked both before and after each drink. It turns out that even hours after drinking both drinks, fat metabolism dropped by an incredible 73%. What is happening?
When you drink alcohol, your liver converts it into a substance called acetate. (The acetate levels in the subject’s bodies were 2.5 times higher than normal). And it is the acetates in your body that make losing blubber almost impossible.
Your body prefers burning acetate to all other sources of fuel (fat being one of them), and basically shuts down its normal process of burning off any other source of energy.
In other research, alcohol has been shown to increase appetite. When you combine alcohol with meals, studies have shown you tend to eat more. And since the alcohol is going to serve as your body’s primary source of fuel, all the calories go directly to your waistline.
And finally, alcohol increases your cortisol levels and decreases your testosterone levels for about 24 hours after you imbibe. And this definitely is not good for trimming down or adding muscle!
2. Healthy Additions Are Slimming…
According to some new research from the Kellogg School Management at Northwestern University, a core contributing factor to obesity is our belief about the relationship between a meal’s healthiness and its impact on weight gain.
People mistakenly believe that eating healthy foods in addition to unhealthy ones can decrease a meal’s calorie count.
In the study, 934 people were asked to estimate the calorie count of several meals. Some were shown “unhealthy” meals, and others were shown the same meals with a healthy option.
An example is that some people were shown a bowl of chili alone – and others were shown the same bowl of chili with a small green salad. Other food pairs included: a cheeseburger with celery sticks, a cheese waffle sandwich with a small apple, and a meatball pepperoni cheese steak with a celery-carrot side dish.
The results were pretty scary. Those who viewed the chili alone thought it contained 699 calories. Those who saw the same bowl with a green salad thought it only had 656 calories!!!
So, by “adding” healthier food, people thought the calorie count went down.
Researchers call this, “The Negative Calorie Illusion,” and it applied in all four food pairings. Even worse is that this illusion was TWICE as strong in people who are considered “weight-conscious.”
So now you know: if you are counting calories you have to stick to the numbers. Healthy additions will bias the estimated damage of your meals.
Knowledge is Power
I hope this information has been helpful. There are plenty more weight loss myths out there! If you know of any, please put them in the comments section below. I am going to compile a big list and share them later.
Also, please join our Facebook fan page and start commenting there as well. We are developing quite a community.