Why Eating Less Frequently is Better For Fat Loss

Making sure that you are in a deficit in order to lose body fat and get into better shape is the biggest driver of results. However, staying in that deficit can be harder than you think if you eat continuously throughout the day. In this article, I'm going to talk about why eating all of the damn time could be making things more difficult for you in the long run. 

Margin of Error When You Eat

Whenever you eat there is going to be a small margin of error, even if you weigh all of the food out and cook it for yourself it's still an estimation of the total calories. It's extremely difficult to be exactly right, but we can certainly be good enough. 

However, what about when you grab a pre-made sandwich for the supermarket, or go to a fast food restaurant that publicises their nutritional information? How is it possible that every single sandwich in the store is exactly what is advertised on the label or that every burrito creator / sandwich artist uses the exact right amount of ingredients when constructing your meal? It's because it's just an estimation, it doesn't have to be accurate, it just has to be in a ball park figure, and what's scary is that these estimation are almost ALWAYS under what you actually get.

There's a fantastic video put together by Youtube Casey Neistat on this very problem. He goes about his normal day, eating out where he thinks normal people would grab food like Chipotle, Subway, and the supermarket down the street and he uses an extremely accurate (and expensive) machine to get an exact number for the calories he actually got and compares that against what he think he got. 

The result: he unknowingly eats about 600 calories more than was advertised. This would be the same as unknowingly ingesting a McDonalds Big Mac. 

Now I'm not saying that you should never eat out, just to be aware that there is a much higher margin of error when you eat out, and restaurants will use butter and oil to make things taste delicious. That chicken breast that you make at home? There's a reason why it tastes 100x better in a restaurant!

Mindless Snacking 

One of the biggest problems I see when people try to lose fat is snacking all of the time. A co-worker brings in some 'healthy' banana bread, and you have a tiny slice. You have a little bit of cream in coffee, someone offers you some nuts, or you had a can of soda. All pretty reasonable things, however you're going to forget about this. It has been shown in research that self reported food diaries are almost always under reported. Why? Because you forget about things, particularly the small things you don't consider as 'meals'. You might not consider them as meals, but your body still does. 

What you think you ate:

 

  • 9am (Breakfast): Some Fruit
  • 12pm (Lunch): Chicken Salad
  • 7pm (Dinner): Baked Veggies and Chicken

 

 

 

What you actually ate: 

  • 7am:  Black Coffee
  • 8am: Another Coffee ( with milk and sugar)
  • 9am (Breakfast): Some Fruit
  • 10am: A slice of that banana bread
  • 12pm (Lunch): Chicken Salad
  • 1pm: Packet of crisps 
  • 2pm: Handful of nuts
  • 7pm (Dinner): Baked Potatoes, chicken and veggies
  • 9pm: Bit of chocolate. 

 

Maybe a little bit of exaggeration, but you get the point. We can be very bad at self reporting and remembering exactly what we ate if it isn't tied down to a specific meal.

Staying Full and Satisfied For Longer

One of the myths the circulates around the internet and fitness communities is that you need to eat small meals every couple of hours to "stoke the metabolism fire". This idea comes from the thermic effect of food. Meaning that when you eat, it takes up a small amount of energy to actually digest that food and eating frequently will make sure that you're always burning calories. 

In reality, the thermic affect of food has been incredibly overblown and oversold and this won't make or break your journey to get those abs you've always wanted. Meal frequency does not contribute directly to results, but it can help you with the things that will. 

Results come from energy balance and macronutrient partitioning, i.e if you're trying to lose fat then you need to be burning more energy than you consume, meaning that you need to be eating an appropriate quantity of calories and getting in enough activity each day. 

Meal timing can help you by making sure that staying in the calorie deficit is as enjoyable as possible and still allow you to eat the foods you enjoy without having to carry around tupperware everywhere you go. 


Key Takeaways 

There's a margin of error every time you eat - Even if you're eating pre-packaged foods or preparing a meal for yourself, there will be a small margin of error which adds up over time. 

You forget all of the smalls things - Unless you write down everything you eat there's no way you'll remember all of those bits and pieces you ate throughout the day. 

You don't have to eat tiny meals - You can eat larger meals which will satisfy you and keep you feeling fuller for longer meaning that you won't feel the need to snack.