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Skipping Breakfast – A bad idea? How often should you eat and snack?

  |   Diet   |   9 Comments
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How often should you eat, snack and should you skip breakfast?

Possibly the most controversial and most talked about topic floating around the interwebs of late is that of meal frequency especially when it concerns intermittent fasting. Let’s try and get to the bottom of the question ‘How often should you eat, snack and should you skip breakfast?’.

How many meals a day should you be eating?

According to pretty much everyone I know that’s ‘built’ and works in a gym, they’ll tell you that in order to build mountains of muscle, you need to be drip-feeding your body with 30grams of protein hand-prepared by virgins at any given moment. Forget 6-8 meals a day, I’m talking ingesting protein between breathes of air.

Thankfully, the heated issue of meal frequency in regards to stoking metabolic fires has been extinguished due to a very recent study. (Don’t excuse the puns – they were on purpose).

That’s right – there’s no metabolic advantage to eating multiple meals.
Your metabolism will NOT slow down if you, heaven forbid, FAST. Nor will it slow down if you hang upside down on the monkey bars and throw random handfuls of excrement at the elderly.

According to the study, if you eat the same amount of calories in a day, it won’t matter if you eat them over 3 meals or over 20 meals. Your metabolism will remain exactly the same.

In regards to building muscle

Metabolism aside, the main reason to eat more often is if you’re trying to reach a caloric goal.
It might suit your lifestyle to get your 3,000 calories a day over a number of meals. We can’t ALL eat as much as we’d like at each meal, so adapt where you can.

What if you’re hungry all the time?

Fantastically, this recent study found that eating smaller, more frequent meals actually lessens satiety and fullness in overweight men.
My take on it – If you’re hungry all the time, your body is programming itself to respond to a set meal pattern. It will be constantly seeking the next meal – therefore you’ll be reaching for that jar of cookies all too often.
Try fewer meals and make them larger ones. Sure, it might take a week or so for your body to adjust, but it might just break you free from those ‘eating all the fricken time’ shackles.

Snacking

I know Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple advocates ‘eating when you’re hungry’, but I think there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. After all, there’s emotional hunger and actual, physical hunger.
How many of us eat when we’re stressed or emotionally wound up? Also, we often mistake ‘hunger’ for ‘thirst’.
A trick I often use to keep myself on track – If you’re feeling hungry, reach for a hot cup of tea, a glass of water or something in liquid form. You’ll surprise yourself as to how quickly those ‘hunger pangs’ disappear when you quench your thirst.

If all else fails

…and you’re about to rip down a wall or tear a work colleague a new a-hole, then reach for something with protein in it.
A shake with low-fat milk or something else low carb and high protein.

Is skipping breakfast a bad idea?

That’s the clincher isn’t it?
Sure there have been studies that state obese men and women whom habitually skip breakfast are more likely to reach for a quarter-pounder come lunch time. They were probably going to reach for it anyway right?

What about for the rest of us? There’s properly skipping breakfast, then there’s quasi-skipping breakfast, and eating 4 slices of toast with honey on it when you rock up to work. “I didn’t eat breakfast. I ate at 10am”. Yeah right buddy – you really skipped breakfast.

How will I function in the morning without eating breakfast?

Many people tell me that they become irritable and can’t concentrate at work if they haven’t eaten breakfast.
This is your body’s pre-programmed response that I spoke about earlier. It’s expecting some kind of caloric hit. After all, you’ve been eating breakfast every day of your life, and you decide to miss it once. The body’s going to react.
Have you ever stopped drinking coffee for a day and experienced a headache or some mild form of irritation? I thought so.

My own breakfast-skipping experience

Look, I only just started skipping breakfast completely since January 1st, 2011.
I can tell you, my experience has been a positive one. I really believe it’s an easy lifestyle to stick to. I’m not hungry till lunch time when I eat a mountain of food, AND I train at 6am in the morning with zero effects on my performance. In fact, and from reports I’ve had from friends and readers, performance has INCREASED. Other readers following leangains and Eat Stop Eat seem to be enjoying the same results.
Note: I ingest BCAA’s before and after training to prevent muscle catabolism. My technique for this is outlined over here >

To wrap it up…

There’s no magic formula. No doubt a study will debunk the last study and so on. One day coffee is bad for you, the next it’s pretending it cures cancer.
Listen to your own body and what works for you. Give new methods a trial, and if they work, stick to them for a long time and gauge it. At the end of the day, it takes hard work to stay lean and strong all of the time.

If you find a method that gets you there and KEEPS you there, you’ve found your very own magic formula.

Clint’s Note: What about you? Did you skip meals, snack or eat 20 meals a day? Comment below.

AUTHOR - Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

  • http://www.fitnessbreakout.com Alykhan – Fitness Breakout

    Clint,

    I average 2-3 meals a day and skip breakfast several times a week. No ill effects for me either and I often train in a fasted state. Works great for fat loss, but you won’t hear about it from more “conventional” health and fitness resources because it’s not so PC.

    Alykhan

    • Clint Nielsen

      The ‘Conventional’ guys just take a while to catch up to the rest of us. As with most things in ‘mainstream’ media :)
      C.

  • Jarrod

    I started Leangains 7days per/wk on April 15th and I didn’t find it hard to transition at all. It’s been great for me in every way. Now that I’m used to it, I’ll even take a day on the weekend where I’ll eat whenever I want, just to change it up a little. LG is the philosophy that I like to follow the most. It’s great!

  • http://leanmeanvirilemachine.com Darrin

    I’m a two meals a day guy. Sometimes three, sometimes one, but I always let my gut tell me when it’s time to eat. (Even though I’ll strategically fast and feast, there’s always a balance.) I think people need to find what works best for them. I know I literally forced myself to eat breakfast every morning for years because I thought it was the healthy thing to do. Bad move when you’re not hungry!

  • http://www.thefatlossauthority.com Ricky

    You have the key to success, listen to your body, is the real true. I’ve been sailing through lots of blogs, all the different theories are based in self experience, that means to me there’s no final solution for meal timing, On the other hand, as you perfectly describe in your article, sometimes we mistake what our body is demanding, I like your advice, try water or tea.

  • Clint Nielsen

    @Jarrod
    So many are adopting the leangains lifestyle. It’s very easy to adopt and maintain.

    @Darrin
    I forced myself to eat breakfast at an all inclusive in Mexico for 7 days straight. I’ve never felt so full in my life. It WAS good though :)

    @Ricky
    Listening to your own body is unfortunately sometimes difficult to master. Am I really ‘hungry’? Or am I just highly emotional. Interpreting the signals in the correct way is paramount.

  • triplab

    I’ve been experimenting with a leangain’ish chow style for most of the year too. I agree that after the first week or so I am actually much more energentic and just feel lighter and more focused way past noon. In fact, the few times I’ve decided to have breakfast – whether oatmal, eggs, or a full blown grand slammy type sit down – I feel slower and kinda wrecked all day.

  • http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com Dave – Not Your Average Fitness Tips

    Great review of how often you should eat. I vary day to day. Sometimes I like to have 3 meals, other days 1 meal is all I want. I never liked the 6 meal per day approach; just wasn’t right for my body.

  • http://somebodylied.com Michael @ somebodylied.com

    A reason people get hungry all the time, is because they are addicted to a drug in the food. This is sugar. Once you make the switch up to burning fat for fuel instead of sugar, you will generally notice that when you’re hungry its real. Now that I am a fat burner, I get the hunger feeling maybe once- three times a day and do beleive my body actually wants food rather than being emotional hunger etc. To learn more check out this post i wrote http://www.somebodylied.com/are-you-a-fat-burner-or-a-sugar-burner