Skipping meals. For some it is a key ingredient when identifying how to burn belly fat fast. And I suppose it can seem an obvious way to remove excess weight. No breakfast, check. Skip lunch, check. Fewer daily calories, check. Weight loss sorted. Surely this is integral to moulding your mid section back into shape?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the reality could be very different. There are a range of implications for both mind and body when foregoing breakfast, lunch or any meal throughout the day, including the tendency to make up for your missed meal with junk food.
The first point to note – is that the study was actually completed on eating habits of mice… not humans. So if you are not a mouse then you might breathe a sign of relief!
Not so fast compadre…
A significant quantity of early research is not necessarily from studies into human behavior. Don’t write this off just yet. In fact the nutrition researchers believe we would see similar results testing the effects of fasting and gorging in humans.
Some mice were allowed to eat small amounts regularly throughout the day. Others were placed on a restrictive diet where they could eat just once every 24 hours. These mice didn’t manage their food particularly well and opted to gorge it all in one sitting… providing the equivalent of fasting and then bingeing on one larger meal.
So what happened?
Glad you asked! Well… actually the restricted eating group did initially lose belly fat… But if you think this demonstrates how to burn belly fat fast then you might need to think again. The bad news for the restricted eating group was as soon as they returned to normal eating patterns…. they gained it back.
Martha Belury – professor of human nutrition at OSU stated that “Even though we took the mice off their diets after a few days, they would still gorge.”
This pattern of restricted eating followed by the introduction of more calories is a familiar pattern of many dieters nowadays. “We know that people go on and off diets pretty frequently, and we know that people who go off diets tend to gain weight,” Belury said.
However, there was worse to come for the bingeing mice! They also developed insulin resistance… What does this mean? Well basically that their liver doesn’t respond to insulin signals to stop glucose production… meaning excess glucose / sugar which eventually ends up stored as fat. Not good news for our friendly mice.
Despite the two groups taking in identical calorie diets… the bingers were storing it as adipose tissue, or fat around the organs in mice equivalent to the belly area.
So what does this all mean?
Well primarily that we (well at least mice anyway!) should consume small meals throughout the day to assist weight loss. If you are enduring long periods of fasting you are likely to create large fluctuations in insulin and glucose – which is more likely to make you gain belly fat in the long term.
A further high profile weight loss study completed in 2007 supports the hypothesis that skipping meals can increase body fat. Researchers completed an observational study into 20,000 American men between the age of 46 and 81. While some academics have questioned the methodology of this particular study (calling instead for an intervention style approach) the researchers did significantly demonstrate that men who ate breakfast exhibited a lower likelihood of accumulating weight than those skipping the important first meal of the day. The study - published in the Journal Obesity suggests that prevention of weight gain can be assisted moderately through regular breakfast consumption in men.
Deliberately avoiding meals throughout the day is not only a weight gain issue. There are more wide ranging health concerns with this dietary approach. FitDay references three key reasons skipping meals can be unhealthy. The first is due to reduced energy levels that can impact both physical and intellectual functioning. A lower blood sugar level associated with this dietary practice is to blame.
Skipping meals can also impact your bodies overall nutrition, limiting your ability to ingest the required volume of vitamins and minerals during fewer daily meals. Micronutrients, frequently overlooked in dietary planning, play a vital role in health, growth and development. Too often meal planning focuses solely on the macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
The third reason FitDay suggests skipping meals is hazardous is it serves as a gateway to unhealthy dietary habits. Severely reducing calories can send your body into survival mode. When your next meal finally rolls around you will be significantly hungrier and tend to over consume.
Even aside from these three important reasons for consuming regular meals and snacks, reducing meals also takes away the enjoyment of eating. You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight.
Now, I have always been an advocate of eating breakfast first thing in the morning, prior to engaging in any form of exercise. Interestingly, a 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition is contrary to my long ingrained views. They found that exercisers can burn up to 20% more fat when operating on an empty stomach. According to Lisa Dorfman, Sports Dietitian, you may benefit from exercising before your first meal of the day when looking to lose belly fat. This one probably needs further investigation, but it is food for thought!
Have you been skipping meals in a bid to lose weight? We would be interested in hearing your experiences below.