For those of us who’re looking to lose weight, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition might offer some hope. Losing weight is never easy as it requires a lifelong commitment to changes in dietary habits as well as activity level.
Years ago, I read a book by Greg LeMond, the former three-time Tour de France winner. I loosely recall him mentioning something about you can’t lose weight by sitting on your couch eating hot-fudge Sundaes.
Conventional wisdom being the usual edict of calories in and calories out holds true for the most part. However, some recent research suggest that intermittent fasting might offer an unconventional weight loss strategy.
The Myth of Six Small Meals?
Though I’m not going to bother citing a reference here, the Body for Life book by Bill Phillips was probably the first mention of the often promulgated advice of 6 small meals per day. The purported benefit of this meal plan was that it would prevent your metabolism from slowing down while also keeping you in an anabolic state for those who engage in resistance training.
For most people, if you’ve ever tried the eat 6 small meals per day method, you probably find that you end up getting used to never feeling hungry. After awhile, chances are you lose discipline over portion control and the next thing you know it leads to simply eating too much and too often.
Not wanting to stop at my intuitive feelings over the meal frequency myth, I found a very recent review study that has debunked this myth. A review published in the Journal of Nutrition made the following conclusion:
Taken together, these findings suggest that increased eating frequency (>3 eating occasions/d) has minimal, if any, impact on appetite control and food intake, whereas reduced eating frequency(<3 eating occasions/d) negatively effects appetite control.
Okay, so this review only addresses the effect of meal frequency on appetite control and food intake, what about weight loss? From a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, they found that meal frequency had NO benefit on promoting weight loss in obesity subjects on a calories restricted diet:
We conclude that increasing MF (meal frequency) does not promote greater body weight loss under the conditions described in the present study.
Contrary to this diet regime, a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity suggest that intermittent fasting can not only be effective for lowering insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol, but also promotes weight loss. This and other studies in this area contradict the fear that your metabolism will ‘slow down’ causing you to gain weight if you don’t eat 6 small meals per day. In fact, intermittent fasting was more effective than calorie restriction at reducing insulin resistance in this particular study.
Okay, so now we’ve established that eating frequently won’t suppress your appetite , reduce your energy intake, or help you lose more weight. If you want to improve your insulin resistance and lose weight, intermittent fasting is an option worth considering (in consultation with a health professional). What if you just want to suppress your appetite to help you lose weight, is there anything that works?
Effects of whey protein on suppressing appetite:
Speaking of losing weight… Another recent study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that there’s a dose-response effect for drinking a whey protein beverage 90 minutes prior to eating. Participants in this study, however, were already within a healthy weight range (BMI 19-25, both men and women).
In this study, the participants drank a 400 ml [400 calorie] beverage 90 minutes prior to eating an ad libitum test meal. In addition to a placebo beverage containing flavored water, they were also randomized to a 400 calorie beverage containing 12.5, 25, or 50% of the calories from whey protein.
Energy intake after preload:
- placebo – 987 Calories
- 12.5% protein beverage – 841 Calories
- 25% protein beverage – 808 Calories
- 50% protein beverage – 681 Calories
From this data, consuming a whey protein beverage prior to large meals, particularly dinner, may be beneficial for those looking to reduce their appetite and lose weight.