Graze, binge or skip: exploring weight loss strategies
Weight loss strategies: When it comes to diet and health, especially weight loss, the focus has been on what you eat and how much you eat. While eating fewer calories than you take in is the key to weight loss, another important factor is the way you eat, such as how many times you eat per day.
In recent years, much attention has been paid to eating habits. While some diets suggest that the key to weight loss is to eat only one meal per day, other popular diets suggest that people should eat up to six small meals per day. Many of us have also been raised to eat three meals a day – so which is better?
Many diets also follow a three square meal eating pattern. Having such a rigid approach can leave people feeling hungry between meals. This can cause people to snack between meals or even overeat in the process.
But while snacking between meals has long been seen as a way to avoid hunger, some early studies have found that eating more meals per day is linked to lower body weight. Since then, research has looked at a variety of different eating patterns, ranging from “snacking” (up to 17 small meals per day) to “force-feeding” (two to three meals per day).
There is a popular belief that snacking increases your metabolism, but it doesn’t. A study shows that snacking causes a less pronounced insulin spike after meals than force-feeding. This indicates better blood sugar control, which may be indirectly linked to better weight management by storing less fat. But until more research is done, snacking may not burn more calories than force-feeding.
Subsequent studies that looked at the effect of eating between two and four meals a day failed to show whether snacking or bingeing is more beneficial for weight loss. Some studies show that eating more frequently helps you lose weight, but it can also increase hunger and interfere with your ability to eliminate fat from the blood, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
But the way we eat has changed over the decades, more and more of us are snacking or following other eating patterns, such as intermittent fasting, which advocate reducing the number of meals eaten or eating less. allow more time between meals. It is believed that such eating habits will help the body to lose weight better.
When we follow a traditional eating pattern of three meals a day, we tend to spend a large portion of our time (12 hours or more) in the postprandial state, with very little time in a truly fasting state.
These diets are based on an understanding of the different metabolic states of our body. After eating, our body enters the postprandial state. During this state, which can last for several hours, the body stores energy from the foods we have just eaten – often as fat. The post-absorption (or fasting) period is when the body begins to burn store fuel, which does not really begin until about ten hours or more after a meal.
When we follow a traditional eating pattern of three meals a day, we tend to spend a large portion of our time (12 hours or more) in the postprandial state, with very little time in a truly fasting state. This is further exaggerated with grazing or “snacking” eating habits. Intermittent fasting diets are based on the idea that reducing the frequency of meals will ensure that your body spends more time fasting. It is believed that it will improve your ability to manage fat and carbohydrates in the meal. These diets can give better control over the storage and burning of fat stores and improve your metabolic health.
This is also why some people choose to intentionally skip meals, like breakfast, while following a normal eating pattern (as opposed to intermittent fasting, where they can still eat three meals but over a shorter period, like eight. time). While skipping meals may or may not affect how much we eat, it may have other metabolic benefits that come with prolonged fasting without negatively affecting appetite.
Time of the day
Besides the frequency of meals, another factor that can affect your weight is what time we eat. Research has shown that eating later is associated with eating more overall, which can hamper weight loss.
The emerging field of chrononutrition has also revealed that humans are designed to eat during the day rather than later in the evening – similar to our preferred sleep schedule. Some research has shown that eating later in the day is associated with higher body weight. Research also suggests that we are more likely to eat unhealthy foods when we eat outside of our natural circadian rhythm.
Another consideration is when we eat carbohydrates. The way you manage carbohydrates during a meal can be influenced by whether we have eaten carbohydrates in previous meals – this is called the second meal phenomenon. Carbohydrates are largely responsible for the body’s transition to the postprandial state, the release of insulin, and the control of fat storage. This means that if we eat carbohydrates with every meal, we are more likely to store them as fat. Some research suggests that limiting carbohydrates can help us burn more fat during exercise and may improve physical performance.
Different dietary strategies can have different benefits for our body, such as better blood sugar control. But when it comes to losing weight, no one strategy seems to work better than another. Ultimately, the eating strategy that works best for a person will be different. Knowing which strategy is best for you depends on many factors, such as your goals, lifestyle, sleep pattern, and the type of exercise you do.
Adam Collins, Principal Teaching Fellow, Nutrition, University of Surrey first published this article on The Conversation. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
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