This is the second installment of our five-part series on stuff that doesn't work in your fitness plan. I said "stuff" because it's just that, stuff. It's not organized, it's not based in science, it's just stuff. Stuff doesn't work. You need a plan, and you need to stick to it.
With that said, our second article is on the ever-popular "Skipping meals to lose weight" method of stuff. Skipping meals to lose weight is just a bad idea all around. It doesn't do any good for your body in the long term. Sure, skipping meals to lose weight does work initially, but it loses its effect and has disastrous consequences down the road.
When you skip a meal, there is a net caloric reduction. Weight loss is based on calories in versus calories out. Less calories equals less weight, right? Wrong.
To lose weight effectively, we need to consider a few things that you might not be aware of:
-your body is basically a machine
-machines need fuel to run
-machines need the best fuel to run optimally
-losing weight on the scale isn't always best
-too little calories can actually slow your metabolism
-we want to lose fat
-we want to, at the minimum, preserve muscle mass; we do not want to lose it
-skipping meals slows down the metabolism
I know, I know, that's a lot to think about, so I'll explain it in simple English, the language of America. Most people don't know the difference between good weight loss and bad weight loss. Have you ever seen someone who is pretty big go on a diet and lose a bunch of weight? They usually go from looking like a big fat person to a small fat person. Sure they lost weight, but was it healthy?
For the most part, they have lost a bunch of muscle and slowed their metabolism to a crawl. Muscle is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories. Fat is not metabolically active. It does nothing, it's just fat. When you lose muscle, you slow down the metabolism and you burn less calories all day. Dieting and skipping meals generally slows your metabolism down drastically. In the early stages, you will lose weight, some of it is water and some might be fat or it might be muscle. It is most likely muscle.
The reason that your metabolism slows down is because when you don't eat frequently your body tries to store calories because it goes into "starvation" mode. When this happens, it stores calories as fat. As I said, in the beginning you will see a weight loss and it could be fat, but as you keep on doing it, the body shifts its focus to fat storage and muscle burning. This is a survival trick the body still has in it from ancient times when it didn't know when the next meal was coming. It is easy for the body to store fat to use as fuel in times of emergency. It is also easy for the body to burn muscle as fuel, especially when meals are skipped. Your body thinks it needs to go into "starvation" mode and store fat to preserve itself later.
You can now see that when you skip meals you will lose weight because the body is losing muscle at a faster rate than it is storing fat. When you lose muscle and gain fat your metabolism slowly dies. If you keep skipping meals to "lose weight" you will become a skinny fat person. Unless you are a professional "heroin chic" model, I doubt this is the look you are going for.
So what should you do? You need to feed your body every three to four hours with a small meal that contains all of the macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Exactly what you should eat is beyond the scope of this article, but I have written extensively about it and there are many articles on the TPS website on the "Nutrition Corner" page.
Take-home messages from this gem of junk science debunking article:
-skipping meals to lose weight doesn't work
-skipping meals to lose weight slows your metabolism and makes you FATTER
-skipping meals to lose weight makes your metabolism die
-eating frequent, small meals jacks your metabolism into overdrive, making you a fat burning furnace
-your body is a machine that needs premium fuel to run optimally-oatmeal, lean protein, olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables, and water are all great examples of premium fuel
-the scale is not your friend
-the mirror is your friend
-read all of the articles on the "Nutrition Corner" page for more great ideas of what and when to eat
Stay tuned over the next three months for the rest of the series.