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Meal Frequency research

KD

Gone fishing
#1
It often comes up on the forum that for weight loss it's important to eat frequently, rather than a couple of times a day, to boost metabolism etc.

I disagree, but anyway, just found my notes on this, and thought I'd post one of them.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=879792FBellislea1
PubMed

Several epidemiological studies have observed an inverse relationship between people's habitual frequency of eating and body weight, leading to the suggestion that a ‘nibbling’ meal pattern may help in the avoidance of obesity. A review of all pertinent studies shows that, although many fail to find any significant relationship, the relationship is consistently inverse in those that do observe a relationship. However, this finding is highly vulnerable to the probable confounding effects of post hoc changes in dietary patterns as a consequence of weight gain and to dietary under-reporting which undoubtedly invalidates some of the studies. We conclude that the epidemiological evidence is at best very weak, and almost certainly represents an artefact. A detailed review of the possible mechanistic explanations for a metabolic advantage of nibbling meal patterns failed to reveal significant benefits in respect of energy expenditure. Although some short-term studies suggest that the thermic effect of feeding is higher when an isoenergetic test load is divided into multiple small meals, other studies refute this, and most are neutral. More importantly, studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging. Finally, with the exception of a single study, there is no evidence that weight loss on hypoenergetic regimens is altered by meal frequency. We conclude that any effects of meal pattern on the regulation of body weight are likely to be mediated through effects on the food intake side of the energy balance equation.


Which basically means...nah...doesn't make any difference at all :D
 
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KD

Gone fishing
#2
So...if eating say...1500 calories over 6 meals keeps you satisfied, go for it. If you prefer to have it in two meals and it helps you keep to 1500 calories, then do that.

There is no metabolic advantage between the two ways :)
 

little*red

Don't worry, be happy :)
S: 11st12lb C: 9st0lb G: 7st12lb BMI: 23.8 Loss: 2st12lb(24.1%)
#3
Thanks for that very informative post KD. Its good to know that it doesnt make a difference as I have always prefered to have three square meals a day rather than graze (which encouraged me to eat rubbish food like crisps etc) and wondered if i would fare better by eating less more often, it seems not.
 

AmandaJayne

Trainee Maintainer
#4
So...if eating say...1500 calories over 6 meals keeps you satisfied, go for it. If you prefer to have it in two meals and it helps you keep to 1500 calories, then do that.

There is no metabolic advantage between the two ways :)
Just found this little nugget of wisdom, KD. It is reassuring to know that it does not matter when you chose to eat, but just the total amount of cals throughout the day, which is what I'd thought anyway, but sometimes get caught up in the current diet fashions and lose the plot a bit.

As my hubby says, if you use up more cals than you eat, you'll lose weight (sensible git;)).

AJ
 

KD

Gone fishing
#5
but sometimes get caught up in the current diet fashions and lose the plot a bit.
Don't think you're alone :D Trouble is, there is so much misleading stuff out there.

Some people will say you need to eat frequently for the metabolic advantage it gives you. This isn't true as far as I can gather, but just a misunderstanding of the thermal effect of food.

Better dieticians and scientists will suggest people eat a good breakfast and lunch for another reason, which I agree with...if it suits that is.

Many people restrict their calories in the day. Either because they are starting out the day determined to be 'good' or that they know they are 'bad' in the evening, so they save them up. This turns into a vicious circle, as lots of people find that restricting in the day actually causes people to binge at night.

Then, because they've binged in the evening, they are determined to restrict again the next day....and of course...the evening comes and hey presto the shovel comes out :sigh:

So, for that reason, it's often better to eat well in the day, but the calories in vs calories out, still works the same :)
 

Iris

Full Member
S: 16st6lb C: 8st9lb G: 8st8lb BMI: 17.4 Loss: 7st11lb(47.39%)
#6
I have binge tendencies, must admit, so I enjoy saving up my calories during most of the day and having a good old mountain of (healthy) food at night, and usually quite late at night at that! Totally goes against the textbook way of doing things, but it's been something I've been able to stick at, and I've lost quite a bit of weight, so surely it's better to do what works for you than what the boffins tell you, if their way would make you miserable and send you rushing for the comfort of the biscuit tin.

I will say, though, that I think the scientists have a point, in that it makes sense that a frequent eater will have a less sluggish metabolism - they'll probably have more energy and find it easier to exercise and move at a swift pace, I suppose. I think it also makes sense to eat your biggest meal of the day in the morning to give you fuel for the day - I wish I could do it, but I know if I did I would be miserable late at night and inclined to eat a lot anyway - I don't sleep very well and I'm prone to nocturnal nibbling.

One thing that worries me is that my own tendency to split my daily allowance into two large meals (rather than small ones) means I'm still at heart a binge-eater. I still need those big plates of food to fill up the emptiness, and I'd still feel uncomfortable, maybe even a tad panicked, if I didn't feel I could look forward to a large, comforting meal at night. Is that the mentality of a binger who's just substituted healthy foods for her former chocolate-scoffing ways? Maybe. But maybe it's okay to binge on broccoli and fruit and good stuff!

So, yes, part of me agrees with the scientists in many ways, but hey, we're all individuals, so you've got to go with what works for you, even if it isn't the 'ideal' way of doing things. :)
 

KD

Gone fishing
#7
Totally goes against the textbook way of doing things,
Depends on which textbook you read.

but it's been something I've been able to stick at, and I've lost quite a bit of weight, so surely it's better to do what works for you than what the boffins tell you,
Exactly. Of course, with conditions, but if you feel better eating a couple of times a day, than that's better for you.
I will say, though, that I think the scientists have a point, in that it makes sense that a frequent eater will have a less sluggish metabolism -
But research hasn't shown this. In fact, much shows the opposite. Many people who IF (Intermittent fast) find they have boundless energy during the day. They then eat virtually all their daily calories in a small window of time, feel great, lose weight etc.

I think it also makes sense to eat your biggest meal of the day in the morning to give you fuel for the day -
Absolutely no decent research to support this. There was a lot of hype about it recently. Dr Jakubowicz, (think I've spelt that correctly), who, like a few others came out with the idea that a big breakfast helped you lose weight. Her study was very flawed, and last I heard, not even officially published in the research papers. That speaks volumes to me.

Some support I wish I could do it, but I know if I did I would be miserable late at night and inclined to eat a lot anyway - I don't sleep very well and I'm prone to nocturnal nibbling.
Which is absolutely fine. It's still calories in vs calories out.

One thing that worries me is that my own tendency to split my daily allowance into two large meals (rather than small ones) means I'm still at heart a binge-eater.
Not necessarily, though it depends on why you are doing it.

Is that the mentality of a binger who's just substituted healthy foods for her former chocolate-scoffing ways? Maybe. But maybe it's okay to binge on broccoli and fruit and good stuff!
IMO, no it's not good to binge on anything, and yes it still looks like there's work to be done, but it sounds like you realise that, but have found a better way of dealing with the problem for the time being :clap: Hopefully you will find a way to get rid of the problem completely so you don't have to deal with it.

So, yes, part of me agrees with the scientists in many ways, but hey, we're all individuals, so you've got to go with what works for you, even if it isn't the 'ideal' way of doing things. :)
So, yes again, depends which scientist you are referring to:

1. Those which believe in multiple meals a day.

2. Those who believe in less meals a day.

3. Those who believe it really doesn't matter how many times as long as you are getting the appropriate amount of calories over the course of days/weeks/months.

The research is highly in favour of number 3 which has had years and years of testing, published papers etc and very few arguments against.

I'll go for number 3 too :D Which is why I strongly believe that it's important you do what suits you best, as the outcome is the same :clap:

Oh and welcome to Minimins :wavey: :D
 
S: 17st7lb C: 12st11lb G: 10st5lb BMI: 28.9 Loss: 4st10lb(26.94%)
#8
thanks for the info, interesting. cant eat at the moment as on LT but when im eating again i'll keep that in mind.
thx
 
S: 14st0lb C: 13st12lb G: 10st0lb BMI: 32.3 Loss: 0st2lb(1.02%)
#9
Thanks KD, interesting post. I have 3 modest sized meals plus 3 little snacks in between plus loads of fluid. I just make sure I don't go over my 1500 calories. I find this makes it less likely that I will binge as I know I can eat every few hours. The thought of going for long periods without food freaks me out!

Of course, it depends on your lifestyle. This fits in with mine now but certainly wouldn't have when I was working in an office. You can hardly answer the phone or speak to a colleague with a mouth of something! Spraying food into someones face isn't going to go down too well!
 
#10
It often comes up on the forum that for weight loss it's important to eat frequently, rather than a couple of times a day, to boost metabolism etc.

I disagree, but anyway, just found my notes on this, and thought I'd post one of them.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=879792FBellislea1
PubMed

Several epidemiological studies have observed an inverse relationship between people's habitual frequency of eating and body weight, leading to the suggestion that a ‘nibbling’ meal pattern may help in the avoidance of obesity. A review of all pertinent studies shows that, although many fail to find any significant relationship, the relationship is consistently inverse in those that do observe a relationship. However, this finding is highly vulnerable to the probable confounding effects of post hoc changes in dietary patterns as a consequence of weight gain and to dietary under-reporting which undoubtedly invalidates some of the studies. We conclude that the epidemiological evidence is at best very weak, and almost certainly represents an artefact. A detailed review of the possible mechanistic explanations for a metabolic advantage of nibbling meal patterns failed to reveal significant benefits in respect of energy expenditure. Although some short-term studies suggest that the thermic effect of feeding is higher when an isoenergetic test load is divided into multiple small meals, other studies refute this, and most are neutral. More importantly, studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging. Finally, with the exception of a single study, there is no evidence that weight loss on hypoenergetic regimens is altered by meal frequency. We conclude that any effects of meal pattern on the regulation of body weight are likely to be mediated through effects on the food intake side of the energy balance equation.


Which basically means...nah...doesn't make any difference at all :D
does that mean that regardless of how many times you eat, the important thing is to keepthe limit of your total caloric intake per day?
 

KD

Gone fishing
#11
does that mean that regardless of how many times you eat, the important thing is to keepthe limit of your total caloric intake per day?

Yep, that's it.
People often assume that eating multiple times a day keeps the metabolism going, which is doesn't because it doesn't work that quick.

What confuses matters, and where things are often misunderstood, is to do with TEF (Thermic Effect of Eating). We burn approx 10% of the calories we eat, just by eating. People assume then that if you keep eating, you will keep burning via TEF.

But

10 meals a day at 200 kcals each = 20cals in TEF 10 times.
= 200kcals burnt, just by eating

2 meals a day at 1000kcals each = 100kcals in TEF 2 times
=200kcals burnt, just by eating.

Which according to my maths book is exactly the same:)

The original research that started this all off, didn't take this into account at all. They just found that TEF burnt kcals each time you ate, so if you keep eating, you keep burning (or something like that)

But, of course, if eating frequently makes it easier to keep to your target kcals for the day, then you are more likely to be successful at losing weight :)
 
S: 17st4lb C: 12st8lb G: 12st2lb BMI: 24.5 Loss: 4st10lb(27.27%)
#12
interesting stuff..everyone i know who has eaten 5-7 meals through the day combined with a weight training schedule lost tons of weight in a short space of time and they put it down to the frequency of their meals speeding up their metabolism

Deepak x
 
S: 16st12lb C: 11st5.6lb G: 10st10lb BMI: 22.9 Loss: 5st6.4lb(32.37%)
#13
very interesting... for when I am eating conventionally again of course!
 

big-dollop

Need To Downsize!
G: 14st4lb
#14
Interesting article
i have a big (ish) breakfast then 2-3 pieces of fruit though the day and the odd carrot then a decent evening meal and try never to eat after 7pm i find it works for me and my clothes are growing bigger this way:)
 

tim13

Fatboy Tim
S: 16st7lb C: 11st5lb G: 11st5lb BMI: 24.9 Loss: 5st2lb(31.17%)
#15
I'm on 3 meals a day and only fruit for snacks and it's working for me. Don't really want to experiment with it while it's working!
 

Illa

Silver Member
S: 47.2kg C: 43.2kg G: 24.5kg BMI: 16.5 Loss: 3.9kg(8.37%)
#16
thanks for this common sense approach. 3 meals a day is such a recent way of eating (and not worlwide spread either), it couldn't possibly be the best and only way.
 
S: 13st8lb C: 9st8lb G: 6st12lb BMI: 24.5 Loss: 4st0lb(29.47%)
#17
should you not just eat when you're hungry? sometimes i only want 2 meals a day, not three
 
S: 362lb C: 292.8lb G: 170lb BMI: 47.3 Loss: 69.2lb(19.12%)
#18
should you not just eat when you're hungry? sometimes i only want 2 meals a day, not three
You should have whatever suits you. I suppose a lot depends on the size of the meals you're having.

Generally on work days I eat 3 meals 2 snacks a day. I find I feel better and more balanced if I eat something every 4 hours or so. Breakfast and lunch would be between 200-300 cals each with some fruit/yogurt in between then a larger meal in the evening.

At weekends its usually brunch and dinner with some fruit in between.
 
S: 12st3lb C: 11st1lb G: 9st0lb BMI: 24.3 Loss: 1st2lb(9.36%)
#19
Thank you for posting this KD, omg... yes I so totally agree that the constant advice to eat 6 (or more) meals is just annoying... I tried it a while ago (had a few false starts before getting into the zone) and found that I was 1. constantly obsessing about my next "mini-meal" 2. I was never actually full, but neither was I hungry enough to really enjoy the food.

At risk of being controversial it struck me that this is the perfect plan to induce compulsive over-eating, also (to repeat something I said in another post) the generations in the past that had 3 (or even just 2) square meals a day and actively disdained eating between meals were the very ones that didn't have a battle with obesity like we do.

I think the idea we should fear hunger and always have something on its way to our mouths is downright dangerous... yeah I feel pretty strongly about this, sorry if I'm being a bit too outspoken, obviously no offence meant to anyone. :confused:

Last word, I saw this British bariatric surgeon on TV recently and he said that the fear of hunger is the single biggest cause of problems in his clients, now he (unlike me) isn't just some unqualified goon spouting off online, and if he thinks that way it certainly supports the idea that the promotion of never-ending meal-upon-meal is dangerous for some people.

Needless to say, if someone's lost weight that way and also is maintaining happily on it, that's awesome and good luck, but I think it's potentially problematic for many people with weight issues and certainly shouldn't be as heavily promoted as it is right now as being the "best way."

/rant ;)
 
#20
Well..It actually works for me. I lost 45 lbs in three months by eating small meals frequently. What I only added from the regimen is brisk walking for 90 minutes a day. Actually, it is the only one that really worked for me.
 


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