By Paul Stevenson
A frequent question I ask some of our Sydney CBD members is, where do you get most of your health and fitness information from? For the majority the answer will be through the main streams of media… Social, TV and articles. As by now you can tell I work tirelessly to produce large quality amounts of content on two of those media forms being social and articles.
The reason is that there is a very low quantity of evidence based and application based information and way too often I find myself repeatedly correcting both member, clients and social followers on the myths they are continually being fed. In this article I want to correct three of the most common myths I find myself correcting:
Myth #1. Eating 6 Meals a day will help me burn fat by ‘stoking’ my metabolism.
Fact: Meal frequency has no effect on fat burning.
For example, Bellisle et al (1997) conclude that “feeding frequency has no significant impact on the rate of weight loss”. Similarly Cameron et al (2010) found no significant difference between low (3 meals/day) and high-frequency (6 meals/day) over an 8 week period in 16 obese subjects that were fed the same number of calories.
Given that the body of research suggests that meal frequency has no effect on body composition, the number of meals someone consumes in a day should therefore come down to personal preference (Schoenfeld et al, 2015).
Considering adherence is one of the most important factors to long-term weight loss success, prescribing a meal frequency that someone is able to stick to should be of primary importance.
Myth #2. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Fact: No single meal is more important than the other. Skipping or delaying breakfast has no impact on weight loss.
Public health authorities commonly recommend breakfast consumption to reduce obesity. Similarly to Myth #1, whether you choose to eat breakfast or skip it will have no impact on body composition (Dhurandhar et al, 2014). However, what is of more importance is having consistency within your eating routine. Skipping breakfast some days and eating it on others will be detrimental to body composition for the following reasons:
- Increased fasting total and LDL cholesterol (Farshchi et al, 2004)
- Decreased insulin sensitivity (Farshchi et al, 2004)
- Disrupted circadian rhythm of appetite (Thomas et al, 2015)
- Increased cortisol production throughout the day (Witbracht, et al, 2015)
- Higher blood pressure (Witbracht et al, 2015)
Therefore if you do choose to skip breakfast, do so on a consistent basis every day rather than having an irregular eating pattern.
Myth #3. You cannot get fat by eating ‘clean’.
Fact: You can get fat by eating anything providing you are in a caloric surplus.
Firstly, let me start by saying I hate the term ‘clean eating’. To me it is not a useful distinction to make. However, for the purposes of this article I use the term to mean whole, minimally processed foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Think meat, poultry, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.
Whilst I agree that basing a diet around such foods should be the aim, no matter what a client’s goal, it is still possible to overeat on such foods. ‘Clean’ foods tend to be more satiating than more processed foods due to their higher fibre content, they are generally more viscous, not including liquid food or shakes, and they tend to have greater food volume (how few calories a food has per 100g). So whilst I would suggest it far harder to overeat on a diet consisting of ‘clean’ foods, it definitely is possible.
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- Bellisle, F et al, “Meal Frequency and Energy Balance”, The British Journal of Nutrition, 1997.
- Cameron, J et al, “Increased Meal Frequency Does Not Promote Greater Weight Loss in Subjects Who Were Prescribed an 8-Week Equi-Energetic Energy Restricted Diet”, The British Journal of Nutrition, 2010.
- Schoenfeld, B, et al, “Effects of Meal Frequency on Weight Loss and Body Composition: A Meta-Analysis”, Nutrition Reviews, 2015.
- Farshchi, A et al, “Regular Meal Frequency Creates more Appropriate Insulin Sensitivity and Lipid Profiles Compared with Irregular Meal Frequency in Healthy Lean Women”, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004.
- Thomas, E et al, “Usual Breakfast eating Habits Affect Response to Breakfast Skipping in Overweight Women”, Obesity, 2015.
- Witbracht, M et al, “Female Breakfast Skippers Display a Disrupted Cortisol Rhythm and Elevated Blood Pressure”, Physiology and Behaviour, 2015.
- Dhurandhar, E et al, “The Effectiveness of Breakfast Recommendations on Weight Loss: A Randomised Control Trial”, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014.