One of the biggest nutrition myths is that eating multiple meals—five or six—throughout the day will help you boost metabolism and therefore lose weight. It’s the “grazing” theory. Let’s see how it actually stacks-up in the research. Proponents of multiple meals will cite the increased thermic effect of food (TEF) as a key indicator that your body is working harder—and expending more calories—to process the meals you’re eating. Basically, the more meals you eat, the greater your TEF. The greater your TEF, the more calories your burn. Also, advocates of multiple meals suggest your metabolism will bottom out completely if you don’t eat every 3-4 hours. This should be great for weight loss! But recently, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld and his research team crunched the numbers and examined all the best studies around meal frequency and weight loss to uncover whether “multiple meals” is really a good nutritional intervention for weight loss. What they did: The researchers pooled together 15 randomized, control trials comparing men and women who ate three or fewer meals per day, with those people who ate greater than three meals. The studies were all greater than two weeks in duration, had pre- and post-study body composition testing, and were done in adults over the age of eighteen. What they found: The researchers discovered there was absolutely no effect of meal frequency on bodyweight. Likewise, there was no improvement of body-fat percentage with increased meal frequency. In summary, they stated “our analysis does not support a tangible benefit to eating small frequent meals on body composition.” Enough said To burn body fat as a fuel source, your blood sugar levels must be low enough to trigger lipolysis—the breakdown of body fat. If you’re out of shape or overweight, your body likely does not deal with carbohydrates very efficiently. This means if you drink juice, eat cereal, bread, etc., your blood sugars will increase much more than a fit person, and take much longer to return to baseline. And by the time they do, you’re eating another snack. In short, you’re metabolically inflexible. You’re “stuck” in carb-burning mode, and your body is incredibly poor at breaking down body fat for fuel. Your goal should be to become metabolically flexible. Improve your body’s ability to break down fat for a fuel source. How can you do this? STOP SNACKING. If we go back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, they would have gone many hours, many days, even weeks between meals. How did they survive without a protein bar snack or eating every 3-4 hours? The answer is simple; your body is designed to shift gears from burning carbs to burning fat (i.e. metabolic flexibility). But modern eating patterns are completely hijacking this ability. The result is being stuck with unwanted and persistent weight gain. Once again, the solution is to stop snacking; get back to eating three square meals, like your great grandparents. Here are some quick tips on how to survive the first week, without chewing your arm off or screaming at your colleagues or loved ones. Mid-Morning Snack Drink coffee. The caffeine in coffee inhibits the PYY appetite hormone in the gut, naturally supressing appetite. It’s remarkably effective. The problem for most people, is they drink their morning coffee before or during breakfast. The best strategy is to hold off until after breakfast (perhaps when you get into the office) to grab your cup of java. Remember, no added sugar in your coffee. If you’re not a coffee-drinker, go for black or green tea. Afternoon Sugar Cravings The AM snack is quite easy to cut out; most people find it much easier than they initially thought it would be. The afternoon snack can be a little more difficult. For most people, you’re coming down from your morning caffeinated high, a blood sugar dip from lunch, and a natural, circadian low. This is the three-headed monster that makes you crave sweets! I’m a big fan of drinking a green tea in the afternoon (2:00-3:00pm), as it contains a touch of caffeine to suppress appetite. It also provides an amino acid (i.e. L-theanine) which relaxes the nervous system, so it’s not as stimulating as coffee. You can also go with an herbal tea, or drink more water to get you through. Distractions like walking around and scheduling meetings are also very helpful. And of course, don’t keep snacks in your desk. You’ll likely have cravings for a few days, but then they will subside. This will let you know you’re moving in the right direction. If your cravings last for more than 4-5 days, you’ve been really overdoing it, and you’ll just have to “grin and bear it” a little longer. The Late-Night Couch Snack This one is the toughest for a lot of clients. After a long day, you finally kick your feet up on the couch and, it triggers your brain to instantly crave a reward: something sweet. Much like the PM snack, the cravings will subside after a few days. Once again, a simple herbal tea can work wonders (just don’t overconsume, as you may be getting up in the night to pee!). Weekend carnage Most people can stay good Monday to Friday when they are in a routine, but when you break into a free for all at the weekend, carnage can ensue. At the weekend you need to try to replicate the same discipline you had at the weekend and avoid snacking on sweet treats over coffee / brunch and lunch with friends because these small treats such as a latte and a scone can equate to 400+ calories, almost the same a chicken salad. Get Back to Your Roots to Get Slim There you have it. If weight loss is your goal, simplify rather than complicate. Get back to your ancestral roots and ditch the snacking. You’ll be amazed at the progress you can make eating three square meals per day! Disclaimer – Many nutritionist will have different opinions and slants on things. Ultimately in order to lose weight we need to consume fewer calories on average over a prolonged and sustained period of time. Although there is various diets and ways in which you can achieve this I am a starch believer in focusing on the quality of food you eat. If at every meal you consume natural fresh produce such as colourful vegetables, leafy green’s, meat, fish, poultry, nuts &seeds and some fruit then you will find it harder to over consume calories than if you consumed pasta, pizza and cereals!! We can talk about balance and this and that but if you are serious about losing weight than 90% of your diet needs to come from natural produce and you need to reduce snacking.