This round up of recent research addresses the type and timing of eating and exercise. It offers clues for the why you may not be losing weight even though you’ve personally defined “healthy food” for yourself. It also assumes, your exercise is the right type and intensity for you right now. Note: Those are two big musts.
Will You Boost Weight Loss By Eating 6 Meals a Day?
If you’ve been told that eating six meals a day will increase your metabolism and reduce hunger or cravings, put down your fork. A study published in Obesity suggest showed no advantage on metabolism in a comparison between 3 and 6 meals a day.
In fact this study showed six meals a day may actually backfire. Subjects in the six meals a day group increased hunger and lacked satiety. That is they didn’t feel as full or satisfied and may have increased intake. They felt more hunger and desire to eat.
When you consider conditioning, it makes sense. More frequent eating leads to more frequent desire to eat.
A second similar study in 2016 published in the Journal of Nutrition found higher eating frequency doesn’t have any effect in decreasing appetite in healthy adults, another reason often sited for increased meal frequency.
For women in midlife with hormonal changes who may also have a long history of ignoring their own bodily needs to serve others, force-feeding potentially causes further imbalance. Hunger and satiety, as well as fat burning and storage, are signaled by hormones. By overriding your hormones and eating because you should you may decrease your chances of weight loss.
Instead of increasing the frequency of meals, increase the quality of meals to include protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Reduce the frequency of meals and snacking to allow your body to get hungry. Eat to full and not overfull. Tune back in to what your body is telling you. Eat (good food) when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re no longer hungry (don’t go to overfull or force feed to reach a quota).
Exercise Early and Before Breakfast for Weight Loss
In two studies there seems to be a best time of day to exercise after all. While I used to say the best time is when you’ll do it, for women in particular during hormone shift, early in the day is best for working with cortisol and enhancing sleep at night.
An EBioMedicine study found subjects only increased fat oxidation from exercise when it occurred before breakfast. Compared to after breakfast, lunch, or dinner, exercise in a fasted state may increase fat burning.
That information aligns with a prior study in the Journal of Physiology that tested whether pre or post breakfast exercise prevented weight gain during high caloric and high fat intake. A subsequent study done on females who were eating a healthful diet and were of normal weight and regular exercisers, however showed no significant different in eating pre or post breakfast on fat burning or metabolism.
There’s more reason to increase your morning activity. A large study of over 7000 women found that those least active before noon were 26% more likely to be obese. Clearly, starting your engine early, if only for a few minutes at a time can enhance health.
As a woman in midlife, consider your energy balance and stress level. Exercising in the morning intensely under stress has been the cause of dizziness and racing heart rate for some of my clients while others do well with it. Short, intense exercise in a fasted state may work. While longer lasting exercise whether it’s 45 minutes or more of endurance activity or an interval session followed by weight training that lasts an hour or more, may get better results with a pre-exercise meal.
As with your sleep need, your unique food tolerance, and stress reducing strategies the only way to know is to make an educated guess about yourself from the science and then test yourself. #testdontguess
Effects of Increased Meal Frequency on Fat Oxidation and Perceived Hunger Obesity 2013 Feb; 21(2): 336–343.
Higher Eating Frequency Does Not Decrease Appetite in Healthy Adults J. Nutr. 2016 146: 1 59-64
Exercise Increases 24-h Fat Oxidation Only When It Is Performed Before Breakfast EBioMedicine. 2015 Dec; 2(12): 2003–2009.
Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet J Physiol. 2010 Nov 1; 588(Pt 21): 4289–4302.
Journal of Physical Activity & Health 2016 Apr; 1394):416-8