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Meal Timing and Meal Frequency... When should I eat?

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2014 09:08PM UTC

The number of meals you eat each day is your choice.
Research shows that the number of meals you eat each day is irrelevant to weight loss. There is research showing one meal per day worked for weight loss just as well as two meals, and three meals, and all the way up to nine mini meals per day (Farshchi et al., Smeets et al). It really doesn't matter as long as you're staying within your daily calorie total limit.

Considering that the number of meals per day doesn't matter, then neither does the timing of those meals. After all, how could meal timing matter if eating six meals per day is just as effective for weight loss as eating two?!

Focusing on meal timing or meal frequency misses the point that the total calories you are consuming is the driving factor to losing weight. We've had successful Venus transformations with people eating anywhere from 2-5 times per day. It's a pattern you will need to figure out on your own.

What we can tell you is that many successful Venuses started by eliminating breakfast all together. We know from research that the more you eat at breakfast the more you will likely eat all day. We also know that the longer you delay eating in the morning the easier it is to keep your calories low for the day.

To put it in simple terms, I like to think of it as an on or off switch. The minute you start eating today it's ON! In other words, your mouth and stomach are open for business as soon as you break the seal with breakfast, whenever that may be. Therefore, the sooner in the day you start eating the more time that day you will spend in the “ON” state and available for eating.

On the other hand, if you decide that your first bite of food will not happen until lunchtime (noon), you can avoid all the morning snacking and extra food you might have eaten that you really didn't need in the morning.

There is no metabolic requirement to eat food in the morning, especially when your goal is weight loss. Let's assume you sleep approximately 8 hours (or at least went to bed and were there for about 8 hours). Let's also assume you stopped eating perhaps 2 hours before you went to bed. That would mean you've been without food for 10 hours the moment you wake up. This is a good thing because during those 10 hours you are forcing your body to start burning more and more of your body fat. Each minute you prolong your overnight fast is one more minute of high fat burning.

The minute you eat breakfast you put a stop to that fat burning process. Therefore, the longer you can prolong the overnight fast the more fat you can burn during that time. Extending this overnight fast will also help improve your leptin sensitivity (recall the section on leptin sensitivity and fasting).

We recommend setting a goal of a 12-hour overnight fast. For example if you stop eating today at 10pm, then try to make it to 10am tomorrow before you start eating again. If you can push that out to noon and create a 14 hour overnight fast, even better. In fact, there is a popular form of intermittent fasting called 16-8. This simply means extending your overnight fast for 16 hours then allowing yourself to be ON, or available to eat for the remaining 8 hours of the day. For most people this means prolonging the overnight fast until about 2-4pm the following day depending on when the last meal of the day happened.

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