… three times, five times, not before 10 am, not after 6pm …. So which one is it? Which one is best?
I’m sure by now you’ve read about intermittent fasting (ie. 5:2 diet), and passionate opinion pieces proclaiming when the best times to eat is (ie. 6 meals a day to flat abs).
So today, I want to take a different approach, because let’s face it, who wants more confusion in their lives? Instead I want to look into the common elements of meal timing recommendations and focus on the positives you can easily implement into your day.
Focus on controlling energy intake. Regardless of whether you are eating three meals a day or trying intermittent fasting, both are focusing on controlling how much energy you are eating. I normally tell my clients that as much as I would love to (attend Hogwarts) invent a magic wand, that I could wave that around, causing body fat mass to disintegrate into nothing-ness, unfortunately I cannot. But what I can tell you is what we know scientifically about weight loss:
Energy greater than energy out = weight gain
Energy in equal to energy out = weight maintenance
Energy less than energy out = weight loss
In summary: Whether you are eating five or three times per day, you want to focus on your energy being less than what you expend, to achieve weight loss. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to severely restrict your energy to 800 cal per day. This may mean that you need to focus on the next two common recommendations below!
Focus on wholefoods. I have not (well yet anyway) read any of meal timing diets, tell you that it’s okay to frequently eat takeaway and processed foods. Mainly because it is difficult to achieve weight loss when eating a diet high in processed foods. How to do this? Here are some tips of the trade to help:
- Focusing in on vegetables. Vegetables truly are the foundation to any healthy diet. Are you eating a wide range of colourful vegetables? Are you consistently eating at least half a plate of vegetables at lunch and dinner?
- If yes, then focus on the quality of carbohydrates you are consuming. Are your carbohydrates high in fibre and low GI, or are they refined and processed?
- If you’re carbs are on point, focus on the types of protein you are consuming. Are they lean cuts of meat? Are you eating a range of animal and non-animal protein sources? If yes to the above, you’re definitely on your way to ensuring you are eating a diet rich in wholefoods! Well done!
In summary: Regardless of how many meals you eat in a day, focus on consuming a diet rich in nutrient dense wholefoods!
Move, Move and move some more. We all know that couple who were made for each other. That couple that always laughs at each other jokes, that couple who always share meals … you get my point. I tend to compare physical activity and diet to that perfect couple we know. While they can individually benefit your health, it’s not until you combine them together that the stars align and you see greater weight loss occurring.
In summary: No matter how many meals you’re eating in a day, try and aim for some type of activity in your day, whether that be a walk around the block at lunch time, a pre-morning swim or an after work pump class. Just move!
- Longo VD, Mattson MP. Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell metabolism. 2014 Feb 4;19(2):181-92.
- Krista A Varady, Marc K Hellerstein; Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 86, Issue 1, 1 July 2007, Pages 7–13
- Kim S Stote, David J Baer, Karen Spears, David R Paul, G Keith Harris, William V Rumpler, Pilar Strycula, Samer S Najjar, Luigi Ferrucci, Donald K Ingram, Dan L Longo, Mark P Mattson; A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 4, 1 April 2007, Pages 981–988