What’s Best? Eat More or Less Frequently?
We’ve been told eating smaller meals and snacks more regularly throughout the day is the best way to eat for weight loss. In contrast, more people are adopting an intermittent fasting approach to health and weight loss. So, what are we to believe?
Michelle Alencar, PHD in Nutrition and Fabio Comana, MA, MS in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition and faculty instructor at San Diego State University, shed light on the topic at the IDEA Personal Training Summit in Alexandria Virginia last week.
The general theme was that there is no perfect way to eat for everyone. It makes sense that every body is different so each person’s physiology may respond differently to various approaches based on gender, hormones, genetics, age and other variables. So just because one approach is working for your best friend, doesn’t mean that same approach is the best method for you.
Here’s some questions to ask yourself when deciding which nutrition plan to adopt:
Is what I’m currently doing working for me?
How is my energy?
How is my body composition?
Am I at my ideal body weight that allows me to function at my best and keep my risk for disease at a minimum?
Which nutritional approach allows me to look and feel by best AND that I can sustain for the long term?
Here are the pros and cons of higher and lower meal frequency:
Eating More Frequently:
May be easier to sustain long-term.
May be easier to consume all essential macro and micronutrients.
May prevent you from getting so hungry that you consume poor food choices and/or binge.
May be psychologically easier.
May be socially easier.
Studies show that if you are trying to build muscle, it’s better to eat more frequently throughout the day with 4 meals/snacks as the ideal number.
Since you’re eating more frequently, there’s a greater chance to overconsume calories.
More chances for blood sugar spikes after each meal.
Eating less Frequently:
Since you’re eating less frequently, it may be easier to stay in a calorie deficit to promote fat loss as long as you’re not gorging during your feeding window.
Practicing intermittent fasting may teach you to be ok with the sensations of hunger which ultimately, you will need to manage when trying to lose weight.
Less chances for blood sugar spikes throughout the day
Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting can improve blood glucose levels, lower insulin levels, reduce insulin resistance therefore reducing risk for diabetes, reduce risk for cancers, improve heart health and more.
There are many approaches to Intermittent Fasting so you can choose an approach that works for you.
One of the most popular approaches is to fast for 16 hours and consume all your calories within 8 hours or 15/9 where you eat during a 9-hour period and fast the other 15.
Other methods include eating for 6 days and fasting for 1 day per week.
Other approaches fast every other day.
Some approaches use spontaneous meal skipping when you skip meals when it’s convenient. A
13-hour fasting window appears to be time frame that provides health benefits while also being sustainable for the long term. So, that means if your last food/drink is at 7pm, you won’t eat again until 8am.
Not ideal approach if your goal is to build muscle.
High chance for blood sugar spike if you are gorging during your feeding window.
May be socially more challenging to adhere to.
May be psychologically more challenging to adhere to.
Those with diabetes and/or anyone taking medications should consult with a doctor to assure there would not be a negative impact as a result of this nutrition approach.
Those struggling with eating disorders may have a hard time maintaining a healthy relationship with food following this approach.
Some people who follow Intermittent Fasting gorge during their feeding window which is not healthy. You can’t expect to binge on nutrient-poor junk food during the feast periods and expect to lose weight and obtain optimal health. Food quality is critical and intermittent fasting does not give you the license to eat whatever you want during the eating periods.
Bottom line, if you are happy with your health and body weight, continue with your current nutrition plan.
There are many approaches to optimal health and one size does not fit all.
Yours in health & fitness,