Fat Loss 
Carolyn Classick-Kohn,MS,RD

Timing is Everything
Regular meals and snacks are recommended to those who are trying to lose fat and body weight.  For those who want to gain weight and lean muscle mass, it's the same advice. How can the same strategy work for fat loss and for weight gain?

Eating for Fat Loss
There are several classic feeding studies, both in animals and in humans, that have shown the same results: animals and humans who are restricted to a few large feedings or meals per day have more body fat than those who eat freely throughout the day. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, is a recipe for gaining body fat as studies have also confirmed that those who skip breakfast tend to be fatter. Here are some key reasons for eating smaller, more frequent (and nutritious) meals and snacks:

  • Eating every 3-4 hours increases the body's production of heat, caused by the digestion and absorption of food (thermogenesis), which increases the metabolism of the body.

  • Smaller, more frequent meals help the body use fuel more efficiently than large, less frequent meals.
    Protein is used more efficiently, and this helps preserves the body's lean muscle, which increases the body's metabolic rate and calorie needs.

  • Eating frequently should signal the body to stop eating because it is satisfied. A regular supply of food spread out throughout the day can help control appetite, which can prevent overeating. This regulation of food intake can help people who are prone to overeating episodes, so that overall fewer calories are consumed with more frequent eating.

A Free for All?

Balanced Diets Are Important For Fat LossOf course,  for frequent, small meals to really work in fat loss, the meals really do need to be small, and well balanced with carbohydrate, protein, and small amounts of fat. Frequent, reckless eating will lead to fat gain just as quickly as large meals if the calories aren't controlled and within the calories you need to lose weight. No matter what calorie level you are following to lose weight, eat smaller meals and include small snacks in-between. Some examples of a good mix of meals and snacks that contain both carbohydrate and protein with small amounts of fat are:

  • skim milk and high fiber ready to eat or cooked cereal

  • low fat yogurt and berries, with a few walnuts

  • 1/2 whole grain bagel with 1 tbsp. peanut or other nut butter, fresh vegetable sticks

  • 1/2 veggie sandwich with an ounce of low fat cheese, fresh veggies, and non-fat mayo (if desired)

  • 1-2 ounces of water pack tuna in a salad of dark greens, kidney or other beans, and fat-free dressing, with some sunflower seeds

  • small baked potato stuffed with steamed broccoli and lean chicken chunks, with fat-free ranch dressing 

Eating for Weight Gain (Lean muscle weight gain)
If you're trying to build muscle with or without losing body fat, frequent meals and snacks are critical to provide the fuel necessary to prevent loss of lean body mass during intense physical training. The difference is, compared to a person who is not working to build muscle, your frequent meals and snacks need to be coordinated to provide high carbohydrate foods to fuel your work-outs, and lean protein sources to decrease the breakdown of muscle during a workout session and build new muscle. Contrary to popular myth, a high carbohydrate intake does not promote fat gain. Carbohydrate is the driving source of fuel for the body and spares the body from breaking down muscle to provide fuel. Once again, excess calories in any form, including carbohydrates will cause weight gain and fat gain so the right combination of calories, nutritional balance and exercise is the key.

Fat Loss - Expert Advice So, frequent meals and snacks provide the needed fuel to build muscle and provide energy for exercise. But, for weight gainers, it's about the only way you'll be able to consume enough calories to get the results of muscle mass gain. Since intense workouts burn so many calories, you'll need to be replenishing your body frequently to meet your energy needs. The same kind of snacks are appropriate, as well as supplemental drinks; the main differences between weight gain and weight loss is the total amount of food and the proper timing of slow vs. fast carbohydrates and protein.   

Want to lose fat efficiently?