Have you ever wondered if that fad diet or that juice cleans will really help you lose fat? Does that pill you saw on TV actually help block cortisol and obliterate body fat in the midsection? If I skip breakfast and stop eating before 8pm will my body store less fat?
The short answer for these questions is unfortunately, no… Well, at least not the way we think they do.
We all want to believe that there is a shortcut to better fitness and fat loss results and in doing so we tend to overcomplicate things. This can lead us to unhealthy habits, fear of food, and believing everything will make us fat.
As a fitness professional, I totally understand how hard it can be for most people to change simple nutrition habits. And that’s without restrictive dieting rules, dogma, and useless nutrition myths.
In this quick three-part series we’re going to explore the top nutrition myths. I’m also going to help you understand the logic behind why NOT to follow them, what most of them have in common, and what to do instead to stress less about your food AND get the better results.
Here are 3 to kick it off:
#1: You MUST eat 6 small meals a day to boost metabolism and lose fat.
We’re going to kick it off with a ‘nope’. There's no caloric or biological benefit to consuming many small meals or few larger meals throughout the day.
Your body does, however, burn calories regularly through the thermic effect of food (TEF) through digestion. It still does not matter how many meals you consume for this to happen and your body will still break down the food the same way.
To better understand this, here is what an 1,800 calories would look like broken up into various meal frequencies:
It’s super important to note that for some people it may help curb hunger and encourage making better food choices. It’s all about personal preference.
When it comes to fat loss, specifically, consuming 6 small meals is no different than consuming 2-4 larger meals as long as your caloric intake is below maintenance at the end of the day.
Need help with your fitness and fat loss goals? Learn more about our 6-Week Transformation Program and come join the fun!
#2: Eating late at night will make me fat.
False. False. False.
There is no magic time where your body will start to store more calories as body fat. At the end of the day what matters most is how many calories you’ve consumed. For fat loss this means that your intake will be below maintenance level.
So whether your last meal is at 5:00pm or midnight, your body will change at the same rate depending on how many calories you’ve consumed overall.
It is important to note that while overall calories matter most, crushing a ton of sugary carbs late night may make it difficult to fall asleep. While this won’t directly cause you to store fat, studies have linked poor quality of sleep to things like weight gain, depression, stress, and not so awesome things.
Again, if fat loss is your goal, any calories consumed late night must still fit in your caloric 'budget'.
#3: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
How about a big hot bowl of Cream-of-Nope!
It may be one of the tastiest meals of the day but overall calories are still what matter most. And if you attack the shit out of carby and high calorie foods in the morning (eg muffins, bagels, a gallon of syrup on your pancakes) there's a good chance you're sabotaging your best efforts right when you wake up.
You may have heard that breakfast is necessary to kickstart your metabolism when you wake up. This is technically true due to TEF (like I mentioned in #1) but it doesn’t matter what time you eat (like I mentioned in #2). And skipping breakfast will not cause your body to store fat or go into ‘starve mode’ (P.S. there’s no such thing).
As long as you’re consuming at or below caloric maintenance over a 24hr period it doesn’t matter what time your first meal of the day is. So if you can’t live without your bacon and eggs, have at it! And if breakfast just isn't your jam or you struggle with making good choices there's nothing wrong with skipping it and saving those calories for later.
The big takeaway for today…
When it comes to fat loss, meal timing and frequency aren’t meaningfully important. Overall caloric consumption is what matters most.
Need help with with learning best fitness and fat loss practices and want to become part of an inclusive fitness community?
Steve is co-founder and head coach of AMP Fitness, downtown Boston's most inclusive personal training studio. His background is in posture, performance, injury prevention and strength development and packaging fitness in a way that is accessible to everyone. He's a brand new father, an avid reader and enjoys nerding out to science fiction movies.