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Nutrition No-no

Why skipping meals won’t solve your weight woes

Untitled-1Skipping meals is a popular method used to lose weight. Unfortunately, the side effects of skipping meals are much more serious than its assumed potential benefits. Mount Alvernia Hospital’s Nutrition and Dietetics Services Department debunks the myth of skipping meals to lose weight and discusses the options for healthier food choices.
Q: Why doesn’t this method work?

A: Some people may have overlooked the negative health impacts of trying to lose weight through skipping meals, thinking that taking fewer meals results in decreased calorie intake, helping them to achieve weight loss. Undoubtedly, skipping meals does mean that there is no or lower calorie intake; however, this method will not be sustainable and it may have adverse effects on health.

When we skip a meal, we tend to unintentionally overeat during the next meal. Also, skipping meals may cause us to crave for snacks in between meals. These contribute to the intake of more calories.

Q: How does skipping meals affect our body adversely?

A: Our body prefers to use carbohydrates as the main source of energy. Skipping meals causes our body to enter a “fasting state”. During a fasting state, the body breaks down glycogen stored in the muscles and liver to get carbohydrates for energy. The body will preserve its protein stores and start to break down fat as an alternative source of energy once the glycogen store is depleted, leading to the formation of ketone bodies. When the body switches to the use of ketone bodies, it will start to reduce energy output in an effort to protect both fat and lean tissue. In another words, the body will push to conserve calories rather than burn them.

In addition, as the lean tissues begin to shrink, they become weaker and perform less metabolic work, reducing energy expenditure even more. Hormones will also slow down the body metabolism to conserve lean body tissue.

iStock_000046395326_MediumQ: Can I skip breakfast and compensate by eating a little more during lunch and dinner, and still lose weight?

A: It is not advisable to skip any of the main meals, particularly breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after long hours of non-ingestion of food. Our body metabolism will slow down during sleep and if the ingestion of food were to be delayed longer, the slowed metabolism will result in a tough time digesting the food. In addition, the slowed metabolism will take a longer time to digest the oversized meal and this may result in weight gain instead of weight loss due to an excessive amount of calories in the form of fat being stored in the body.

Q: Will I lose weight if I just drink coffee for breakfast and eat lunch and dinner as per normal?
Coffee is not considered to be a proper meal replacement because it does not supply essential macronutrients, such as complex carbohydrates, as the main source of energy. Our body can digest liquids faster as compared to solid food. Hence, if you have only a cup of coffee at breakfast, hunger pangs may strike earlier, before your next meal, and cause you to unintentionally overeat at the next meal.


Q: If I overeat at breakfast, lunch or dinner, does it help if I skip the next meal?

A: Weight loss can only be achieved when energy input (calorie intake) is less than energy output (exercise/metabolism rate/activity level). If the calorie intake in two meals is equivalent to the usual calorie intake in three meals, and the energy output is moderate, you are unlikely to be able to achieve weight loss.

This article is contributed by Mount Alvernia Hospital.

Posted by ezyhealth on Mar 31 2015. Filed under Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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