Recently, I came across and article that dealt with intermittent fasting. The article was published on Yahoo! News and was titled “I was bloated for an entire year until I started doing these 4 things every day.” Skeptically, I clicked on the article and read about this woman’s journey to remedy her bloating. The woman in the article claims that because she worked from home, she was prone to mindlessly eat all day long without acknowledging whether she was hungry or not. She claims to have started intermittent fasting, ceasing eating at 7 pm and breaking the fast the next day at noon. Through intermittent fasting, she states that she learned what true hunger is, snacks less and subsequently feels less bloated.
In this weeks blog, we spoke about setting S.M.A.R.T goals, therefore if you are aiming to eat healthier, that resolution should begin with how you attempt to do so. This goal not only focuses in on WHAT you eat but also is attempting to identify HOW OFTEN you eat. So this week, let’s talk about optimal meal frequency.
Let’s begin with breakfast. Current research has shown that individuals who consume a breakfast of ready to eat cereal have consistently higher intakes of several vitamins and micronutrients including Vitamin A, C, E, magnesium, and phosphorus as well as fiber (1). These individuals also tend to have lower intakes of fat and cholesterol. Additionally, a systematic review of six prospective cohort studies have concluded that adults and adolescents who consume breakfast have lower body weight and less weight gain over time (1).
Breakfast typically isn’t the only meal you eat all day, so we need to also look at breakfast as it relates to meal frequency and total meals daily. A 2011 review article was published in The Journal of Nutrition on the effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake. In it several studies concluded that while eating more than three meals per day had minimal impact on appetite control and food intake, eating less than three meals daily negatively affected appetite control(2).
As a soon to be registered dietician, I truly believe in eating every 3 to 4 hours, ceasing eating around 7 pm and breaking the fast 8 hours later. With this pattern you are eating 4 to 6 small meals daily or 3 meals and 2 snacks. In this case, a snack is meant to be eaten during a period of slight hunger and not satiety. It is important to note that eating between meals in a non- hunger state can be detrimental to energy regulation and likely leads to weight gain (3). The key to consuming meals is to only eat when you are hungry, not ravenous or completed depleted. Eat until you are satisfied and hunger is satiated.
So now that we are discussing meal frequency, let’s dive into intermittent fasting. As I mentioned earlier I’ve been hearing a lot about intermittent fasting in the last few weeks as the New Year has encouraged individuals to take control of the health and wellness. I decided to look up the current research regarding this trend to see what, if any, effects it has on human metabolism, energy regulation, and the gut microbiome. Intermittent fasting, also known as periodic fasting, involves cessation of eating and drinking for an extended period of time, with little to no caloric intake (4). The “fast” is broken by periods of normal feeding typically between noon and 7 pm.
There are several types of intermittent fasting which include alternate day fasting, modified fasting regimens and time-restricted feeding (5). For the purpose of this article, I will be looking solely at time- restricted feeding.
In a review of 13 studies ranging in daily fasting intervals of 12 to 21 hours, time- restricted feeding was positively associated with reductions in body weight, total cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, insulin as well as improvement of insulin sensitivity. Additionally, time restricted feeding that coincides with the normal circadian rhythm, meaning your not eating during the time you should be sleeping, protects from hyperinsulinemia, hepatic steatosis, and inflammation. Additionally, intermittent fasting aligned with the circadian rhythm appear to have “positive impacts on the gut microbiota” because “gastric emptying and blood flow are greater during the daytime than at night and metabolic responses to a glucose load are slower in the evening than in the morning.”
Now that we’ve tackled that, lets go back to breakfast. When practicing intermittent fasting, you are omitting breakfast from your day (equivalent to a ≥13-hour nighttime fast). Researchers have found after conducting a six week controlled trial where breakfast was omitted, that there was no benefit with respect to weight change, glycemic control, lipids, or inflammatory markers for the group omitting the breakfast meal compared with the control group (5).
After looking at all of the current research, I would say that exclusively under the advice of a physician, intermittent fasting can be beneficial in weight loss, lowering blood glucose, maintaining energy metabolism, and restoring the gut micro biome. So set your S.M.A.R.T goal and continue on your journey to balanced health and wellness.
Never forget to live your best life! You’ve got this Rockstars!
Oneil, C. E., Byrd-Bredbenner, C., Hayes, D., Jana, L., Klinger, S. E., & Stephenson-Martin, S. (2014). The Role of Breakfast in Health: Definition and Criteria for a Quality Breakfast. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(12). doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.08.022
Leidy, H. J., & Campbell, W. W. (2010). The Effect of Eating Frequency on Appetite Control and Food Intake: Brief Synopsis of Controlled Feeding Studies. Journal of Nutrition, 141(1), 154-157. doi:10.3945/jn.109.114389
Mccrory, M. A., & Campbell, W. W. (2010). Effects of Eating Frequency, Snacking, and Breakfast Skipping on Energy Regulation: Symposium Overview. Journal of Nutrition, 141(1), 144-147. doi:10.3945/jn.109.114918
Obert, J., Pearlman, M., Obert, L., & Chapin, S. (2017). Popular Weight Loss Strategies: a Review of Four Weight Loss Techniques. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 19(12). doi:10.1007/s11894-017-0603-8
Patterson, R. E., & Sears, D. D. (2017). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition, 37(1), 371-393. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634