Food Myths Busted: Skipping Meals Helps You Lose Weight | STACK

Food Myths Busted: Skipping Meals Helps You Lose Weight

March 17, 2013 | Kate Knappenberger

Must See Nutrition Videos

Late night TV surfing usually hits you with the latest miracle diet infomercial. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially if it promises a quick deflation of that spare tire around your waist.

This advice is especially true for the latest trends, Juice Fasting and Intermittent Fasting.  (See Why Intermittent Fasting Is Unsuitable for Athletes.) Individuals on a juice fast eat no solid food, taking in only water, juice, tea and broth for up to 30 days. Those practicing Intermittent Fasting (e.g., the 5/2 Diet) eat whatever they want on the first five days of the week, then restrict themselves to 500 calories on the remaining two days.

Such gimmicky plans may promise good results, but restricting calories and skipping meals can cause irreparable damage to your body.

What are we doing to our bodies?

Skipping a meal or severely restricting calories tells the body to prepare for a famine. In response, the body slows down its metabolism in order to burn fewer calories and store more body fat. Since carbohydrates are the body's preferred fuel choice during high intensity activity, skipping meals and restricting calories results in a carbohydrate deficit.

This is where the confusion begins. Any time the body is in a carbohydrate deficit, it taps into fat storage for an alternate source of fuel. Promoters of fasting advertise this fact to prove a benefit. Unfortunately, it's not a benefit at all. Without carbohydrates, fats do not burn completely and they produce a byproduct called ketones. Long periods of fasting lead to high ketone levels, making the blood more acidic and damaging the kidney and liver.

Is skipping meals sustainable?

The National Weight Control Registry has investigated weight loss practices in over 10,000 people. The answer was a resounding NO! Skipping meals does not lead to successful weight loss. If you are looking to lose weight, the National Weight Control Registry recommends the following strategies:

1) Get active and stay active

Engage in physical activities that you love and feel motivated to continue. If you don't like to run, try biking, yoga, zumba, swimming or boot camps. Once you find an activity you like, stick with it. When you reach a comfortable weight, don't decrease your physical activity. You will regain the weight you worked so hard to lose.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

People who severely restrict calories or skip meals lack the fuel to use high intensity training to burn calories. Even if you complete the exercise, your body is preparing for a famine, so it burn fewer calories to conserve its energy stores.

2) Commit to a lower calorie diet

Consuming a diet that is too low in calories and fat is counter-productive, but a diet too high in these nutrients won't yield results either. A registered dietitian (RD) can design a meal plan that is perfect for you. RDs are trained nutrition professionals who analyze body composition, calculate calorie requirements and create eating plans that meet specific needs. The problem with trendy fads like juicing and intermittent fasting is that people view them as customized diets, but they're not. They are one-size-fits-all prescriptions that don't suit individual needs. (Find an RD that works with athletes.)

3) Eat breakfast

Adult breakfast-skippers are at a higher risk for becoming overweight or obese. According to the National Weight Control Registry, nearly eight out of 10 adults who maintain a 30-pound weight loss for at least a year eat breakfast daily. People who skip breakfast consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soft drinks, 45% fewer vegetables and 30% less fruit than people who eat breakfast. This is a small sample of the piles of research that show skipping breakfast is not a successful weight loss strategy. If the thought of breakfast makes you nauseous, try a liquid meal (like this fruit smoothie).

4) Stay consistent

People who maintain a consistent pattern of eating (even on weekends) are more likely to maintain their weight loss than those who practice a stricter diet. Skipping meals and fasting are unsustainable practices. They are designed for short durations. No one commits to a lifetime juice fast. The most successful way to lose weight and keep it off is to commit to a lifetime of healthy eating and exercise. This lifestyle should leave a little room for treats, so that you don't feel the need to abandon your healthy habits for days, weeks or months. Unfortunately, mistakes can happen, because lifestyle change is difficult. If you fall off the wagon, recommit yourself to healthy practices and keep moving forward.

The Truth

The truth is that skipping meals slows metabolism, making it difficult to perform high intensity exercise. It creates a pattern of yo-yo eating that increases the risk of becoming overweight and obese. If you want to lose weight, make a lifestyle change and work every day to maintain it. As Maya Angelou once said, "Nothing will work unless you do."

Sources

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.full
http://www.mrbreakfast.com/glossary_term.asp?glossaryID=152
http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=Wake_Up_to_the_Benefits_of_Breakfast!

Topics: BURN FAT
Kate Knappenberger
- Kate Knappenberger, RD, CSSD, ATC, is an assistant professor and athletic trainer at Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Fla.). She earned her master's degree in...
Kate Knappenberger
- Kate Knappenberger, RD, CSSD, ATC, is an assistant professor and athletic trainer at Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Fla.). She earned her master's degree in...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Diet for Wrestlers: 5 Tips to Lose Weight Safely

Five Tips for Weight-Cutting Wrestlers I stepped on the scale exhaustedly at the end of day one of the grueling two-day state wrestling tournament. The...

Losing Weight Without Going to Extremes

How Many Miles Did You Eat Today?

3 Unlikely Ways to Lose Fat

Top 5 Nutrients to Fight Stubborn Belly Fat

7 Fiber Supplements: More Than Just For Weight Loss

Keys to a Successful Full-Body Transformation

6 Simple Tips to Help You Lose Belly Fat

4 Common Nutrition Questions Answered

The Lowdown on Losing Weight Without Detox

4 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism and Lose Weight

Top 5 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

The Missing Nutrient Needed For Weight Loss

Leucine: Cutting Weight with the Alpha of the Aminos

How to Eat Healthy and Lose Weight

4 Ways to Heat Up Your Diet to Burn More Fat

Lose Belly Fat With 6 Stand-Up Exercises

How to Use Cheat Meals to Lose Fat Fast

How to Eat What You Want and Still Lose Weight

5 Easy Weight Loss Tips

6 Reasons Your Weight Fluctuates Every Day

Melo Follows LeBron's Lead

Losing Fat: How to Stay Focused During the Holidays

Why Can't I Stop Gaining Weight?

How Lolo Jones Got Lean After Bobsledding

Low-Carb Diet Plan

A Weight Loss Workout That Works

Size Does Matter: Understanding Power-to-Weight Ratio

What's Up With Elite NBA Players Losing Weight?

3 Fat-Burning Treadmill Workouts

Slash Weight By Eating Right (Not Less)

Why Jogging Is Counterproductive

Female Athlete Weight: How Low Is Too Low?

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

I Do Cardio Workouts But I'm Still Fat. What's Wrong?

Lose Weight by Changing Your Diet

3 Steps to Beat Belly Fat

Weight Loss and the Mediterranean Style Diet