Today we refute the most often said and stupid advice of the "gurus" of diet and nutrition, explaining why it is also dangerous.
Time to start putting our knowledge into action. What we know so far is not much, but it's enough to enable us to start debunking myths and not be taken for fools.
Our body needs energy to break down the food we eat. This process is called TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) or DIT (Diet-Induced Thermogenesis).
With this process in mind, theoretically the more times one eats in a day, the more times TEF will occur. This is the logic behind the myth that the more meals in a day, the more metabolism increases.
But if we sit down and think about it, the truth is that this is not a serious argument. The body needs a certain amount of effort to metabolize the food. Granted. But the same effort it takes to metabolize 200Kcal of food and the same for 2000Kcal?
Of course not. The smaller the meal, the smaller the effort. I mean, at least logic says frequency is not important, but the total caloric value of the specific meals.
And indeed, there are literally dozens of studies that have investigated this phenomenon and could find absolutely no effect of meal frequency on metabolism (apparently other physiological differences existed though), showing that the 1986 study and its follow-up were probably incomplete.
Some examples: Garrow JS, Durrant M, Blaza S, Wilkins D, Royston P, Sunkin S 1981, Kinabo JL, Durnin JV 1990, Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR 1991, Tai MM, Castillo P, Pi-Sunyer FX 1991, Molnár D 1992, Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR 1993, Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR, Kester AD 1993, Bellisle F, McDevitt R, Prentice AM 1997, Taylor MA, Garrow JS 2001, Smeets AJ, Westerterp-Plantenga MS 2008, Cameron J, Cyr M, Doucet É 2010, Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW 2015
As you can see, the vast majority of studies, dating back to 1981, confirm that the frequency of meals has no effect on metabolism. What happened to my nutrition guru? Are you still dizzy or are you now going to start saying that a study on dogs whose activity was not even measured has more significance?
BUT HERE'S THE NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS.
Okay. There is no difference in metabolism and no matter how many calories we take in, if the meals are the same, our body will make the same effort to break them down. But why not small, frequent meals?
First of all, note that the number of meals in a day affects other things like cholesterol and glucose tolerance, but it seems that, at least in the short term, the these differences are not particular in their effect on health.
Secondly, let's take the example of a woman who wants to lose weight. Let's say that 1800Kcal a day is a realistic goal for this person. I know people who "plan" diets with goals lower than that.
Five meals means an average of 360Kcal. 360! One 2% strained yoghurt is just under 150 calories! Who can fill up on something like that and how could anyone but a cheater who wants you to fail with your diet so he can watch you come back and come back again would suggest something like that?
And do you mean to say that we will plan the diet so that some meals of the day will be bigger and others smaller? What will that make it better or maybe worse since 100 calorie "snacks" can't have any effect except to make you think about when the next meal will be? Such confrontations have psychological and physical consequences.
We should note here, of course, that if someone feels a greater sense of satiety during the day and many small meals are convenient for them, then the above does not apply. Depending on the number of meals, how big each one is and depending on one's temperament, such a routine may be suitable for someone. But. Big but coming:
It's extremely easy if you don't count calories to eat more than your daily requirements, as small meals are not as filling.
WE MOVE ON TO THE BAD NEWS
That is, the advice to eat many meals without even counting calories can lead to the following situation:
That is, that person spends most of the day having high blood glucose levels, as they are in a caloric surplus. And it could have been worse. I've put a pretty bad possibility, but not the worst, as in the previous graph.
This if pursued in the long term it is obvious what it can bring about. Insulin resistance and I hope this association was easy if you have read "How our body works II". After all, it is known that type II diabetes occurs when someone is in long-term caloric surplus and hyperinsulinemia is often associated with it.
In fact, there are studies that show that when up sugar levels fall, this leads to eating, which means that if you eat too many meals indiscriminately, sooner or later you will find yourself in this situation.
But I think I'm rambling and I've made myself understood, so let's go to the conclusions.
HOW MANY TIMES A DAY SHOULD I EAT?
The truth is that if you eat several times a day, nothing catastrophic will happen immediately. The cases I mentioned need to occur over a long period of time to have the corresponding health impact. And even being in a constant state of caloric surplus. So if you have at any time been a victim of this dietary fad, don't worry.
On the other hand, I don't want to refer to a specific number of meals. Instead, I want to refer to some other concepts which indicate something similar. I'll try not to get too technical and make it more complicated than necessary.
The term "autophagy" is used to describe a physical process of cells. There are many types of autophagy, but the one we are interested in is essentially a mechanism for self-cleansing. When a part of the cell is damaged or dead, this mechanism takes place by cleaning that part with the ultimate goal of rebuilding it.
Serious diseases have been linked to a lack of self-eating, such as diabetes and cancer. So if in the previous paragraph you understood the usefulness of such a process, now you understand that things are even more serious.
So when does autophagy take place? In humans we are sure that it occurs when we are in a period of caloric deficit, since it is interrupted by any other process associated with some effect or result of caloric intake until it is completed.
In short, if you are sure you are in a caloric deficit, then autophagy will take place. And you can even prolong its duration.
Also, even if you are not absolutely sure that you are in a hypocaloric state, if you leave a gap of several hours between your last meal and your first meal, then it will be more difficult for you to overeat and self-eating will take place.
The longer this period, the better. If you can eat all your meals of the day in a ten to eight hour period at most, it will help provided you don't eat just one meal, so that your digestive system can cope and your body can absorb the necessary nutrients.
-Suprastratum: The authority on health, fitness and nutrition