As is often the case, science is catching up to logic and experience.
When it comes to weight loss, be it in recovery from obesity or that last 10 pounds before a physique competition, frequent feedings has been a popular strategy. Myself, along with many experts, have postulated for years that the frequent small meals is doing something more than providing nutrition–it’s setting down a timing pattern. For the weight loss is not simply a physical feat–it’s as much overcoming the mental, emotional resistance.
A recent study went deeper into the importance of your meal timing, finding a strong connection between nutrient timing (when you eat) and obesity (how much weight you gain).
A few interesting highlight on nutrient timing and obesity from this paper in Physiology & Behavior.
- Changes in meal timing influence obesity and success of weight loss therapy.
- Unusual feeding time can induce a disruption of the circadian system.
- Digestive enzymes express in a circadian manner and are synchronized by food.
- Feeding is the source of energy for adipose tissue. The time of feeding is decisive.
- Clock genes are important in meal timing by changes in circadian control of hunger.
What’s This Mean?
Ah, yes… That is the question. First, as is our human tendency I think we can look to closely for answers, taking everything very literally or precise. That’s usually a mistake. I prefer to keep some perspective and look at the trends.
I would suggest the important take aways are that the most weight you want to lose the less FREELY you should be eating. That means you are best empowered by a structure that is, well, religious for lack of a better word. Hence, the 6 small meals a day.
As we can see, eating whenever the urge strikes you is a recipe for disaster–for overeating and we see here, for not sleeping, for turning more calories to fat, etc. It’s the lose, lose.
A couple other very key points are:
Timing of the main meal was predictive of weight loss during a 20-week dietary intervention and that this effect was independent from total 24-h caloric intake.
The importance of caloric distribution across the day on weight loss therapy was supported by a recent 12-week experimental study showing that subjects assigned to high caloric intake during breakfast lost significantly more weight than those assigned to high caloric intake during the dinner.
Eat Early Eat Often
I think this means, in my head, that eating a solid breakfast is way more important than we even tried to make it out to be. And while it says, “high calorie” I think that could be rationally interpreted as “significant and nutrient dense.”If you consider that most people slap something–usually carb centric–into that hole in their face where they put pie, a protein rich, low glycemic, nutrient rich breakfast need not necessarily be calorie dense.
In fact, I’d suggest that the calories in the study were better for extended weight loss not because they were calories but because they provided lasting satiety and the higher fat slowed the glycemic response early in the day. It is my absolute belief that the worst time for a carbohydrate/blood sugar/insulin surge is first thing in the morning. It sets you up for early fatigue and triggers an all day roller-coaster of overeating and struggle.
Hence, that would clearly mean the absolute BEST time for a protein rich, nutrient dense, low-glycemic meal is breakfast. And that is why I encourage many of my clients, friend and family to start each day with a Full Strength shake. It is not high-calorie, although it is sufficient calories–unlike some of the cheap “protein drinks” that offer only a 120 cals’ or…What it is is substantive–it has body, it matters. You feel it. For it’s 300 nutrient dense calories it nourishes and sustains you like a 700+ calorie meal.
Clearly, Full Strength is not the only way to successfully start your day. Hell yes, I believe in it and recommend it. What sort of life would it be to create something you didn’t believe in, I shudder to consider. But whatever your choice for your first meal of the day, I encourage you to heed the advice here and commit to meal pattern that works, hold it steady, and start your day strong!