It’s important to provide your body with proper nutrients in order to complete the daily tasks and physical activities in your day. But even with this knowledge, you have probably at one time or another, skipped meals in order to lose weight. However, research has shown that skipping meals has undesirable consequences to our health. Furthermore, the habit does not result in weight loss in the long run.
Skipping meals will cause you to eat a lot in one sitting
A study published in the medical journal of Metabolism observed that when individuals skip meals, they often end up eating just as much as they would when they finally do sit down to a meal. The study included healthy, normal-weight men and women in their 40s. For two months, the subjects ate three meals per day. For another two-month period, they skipped two meals but ate the same number of calories in one evening meal (between 4 – 8pm).
More so, eating one large meal in the evening resulted in risky metabolic changes that included
- Elevated fasting glucose, and
- Delayed insulin response.
When such effects persist in the long-term, they could lead to diabetes.
How skipping meals alters your metabolism
When you skip a single meal, your body goes into ‘fasting mode’. This is where carbohydrates, protein and fats are all used for energy. As this fasting phase continues, muscle glycogen storage depletes which causes glucose levels to drop. Your body now begins to look for other sources of fuel and turns to protein tissues (muscles) to be broken down. If your goal is to ultimately build muscle, this is not a desirable effect. In order to try to conserve the remaining protein, the body will then start to metabolize fat for energy in the form of ketone bodies for energy – a process called ketosis.
Overall, the body now begins to reduce energy output and lean tissues begin to become weak and perform less metabolic work. In addition, hormones also slow down metabolism in order to conserve lean body tissue – a process called ‘starvation mode’ which is often referred to as the body’s defense mechanism against starvation.
The consequences of skipping meals can include:
- Decreased metabolic rate,
- Weight gain,
- Decrease in strength,
- Decreased resistance to disease,
- Decreased bone density,
- Mood swings,
- Menstrual dysfunction in women and
- Decreased testosterone levels in men.
Frequent meals are important to help counteract these negative effects. In addition, blood sugar is better regulated because there is almost a constant flow of food into the stomach, reducing the urge to binge eat.
How to establish proper meal patterns
It’s crucial to stress the importance of establishing proper meal patterns and timing to help you obtain proper nutrition throughout the day. This will help to
- Provide proper satiety,
- Stabilize blood sugars,
- Reduce mood swings,
- Give you the energy to get through daily activities.
You can achieve this through the following strategies:
- Ensuring you have adequate protein (3 ounces) and vegetables at meals
- Space out your meals every 4 hours or so.
- Drink 64 fluid ounces of very low-calorie fluids
- Include 1-2 snacks per day that are not only low in sugar and carbohydrates but also high in fiber and protein. Examples of snack choices can include light yogurt, ½ banana, or a hard-boiled egg.
Treat your body right and it will be able to do what it was made to do!
Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Muscle & Strength
American Council on Exercise