Expert Nutrition

Changing Eating Frequency To Lose Weight

Does eating frequency help you to lose weight? This has been a topic of hot debate for many years. Most of the debate has been focused around the thermic effect of food, which is the amount of energy required to digest and absorb food. Our understanding of the research however is although in theory changing the eating frequency could potentially alter the amount of energy used to digest it, currently there is little clinical evidence to support that it would be significant enough in the short term to achieve weight loss.

There have also been reports suggesting that by eating smaller, more frequent meals that the body’s blood sugar levels could remain more consistent, reducing the need for insulin, which promotes the growth of fat tissue and weight gain. This remains controversial as blood sugar levels are influenced by both the frequency of eating as well as the nature of the food consumed.

As suggested above, in theory if you split your meals up into smaller portions and eat more frequently throughout the day you could potentially burn a little more energy through the thermic effect of food. However, on the other side of the equation teaching people to eat more frequently can also have a negative impact, as it teaches habitual eating and can also lead to the overconsumption of food and more importantly a higher total energy consumption (energy input).

The most important point to consider is that although you can potentially burn a little more energy by splitting your meals into smaller portions and eating more frequently, you only potentially burn a little more energy. Realistically we’re looking at about 20 Cals (80Kj) a day in difference. Don’t get us wrong 20 Cals/day might not sound like much, but over time it can add up. For example 20cal/day over a year is the equivalent to the amount of energy that you would find in about 1 kilogram of body fat. Given that most people are looking to lose weight a little quicker that 1kg per year it therefore is more practical to on focus on the types of food you are eating and in particular the energy density and the portion size.

What is important to consider when discussing eating frequency is that you should never intentionally skip a main meal, nor should you fast for a long period of time as this will more often than not lead to over consumption at the next meal. A good example of how skipping a meal can cause weight gain is the Islamic population who religiously celebrate Ramadan. Throughout the period of Ramadan Muslims fast between dawn and dusk. Although eating frequency decreases throughout Ramadan most people gain weight because the period of fasting throughout the day causes them to binge at dinner time.

Eating Frequency Recommendations:

Our recommendations regarding eating frequency to assist weight loss are relatively simple. Eat 3 main healthy meals a day to ensure adequate nutrition and to help satisfy your hunger. Additionally eat something (not necessarily a meal, but preferably healthy and low GI) at least every 4 hours. This will help to maintain blood sugar levels and consequently improve energy levels and concentration. Additionally eating every 4 hours will help to ensure that you don’t over indulge at the next meal.

An important note to consider regarding eating frequency is that the above discussion is tailored towards the goal of weight loss. If you have a specific medical condition such as diabetes (type 1 or type 2), it is best to speak a qualified dietician regarding your diet plan including the types of food you should be eating as well as the eating frequency.

Now that we’ve discussed eating frequency, let’s recap what we’ve discussed so far.

If you haven’t already read any of the above pages, now is a good time to do so. If you’re up to date congratulations, you’re educated enough now to make good dietary decisions towards losing weight. In the coming months we will be publishing a number of pages with practical tables and examples to accompany this information.

Now that you understand the diet side of the equation, it’s time to look at factors that contribute to the amount of calories you burn (energy output). You’ll be surprised, it’s not just about exercise there are other simple things you can do to boost your metabolism (coming soon).

We hope you have found this information useful. Please feel free to contact us if have any questions.

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