Cybex Fitness Blog

Balancing Your Calorie “Checkbook”

Posted by CYBEX Blog on Jul 5, 2011 2:54:00 PM

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Traditional weight loss doctrine preaches, “eat less food, lose more weight”. But according to the physiology of metabolism, you have to eat more often to change your body composition.  Based on recent scientific research findings, a more accurate weight loss doctrine should be “eat enough, often enough.”

Researchers at Georgia State University developed a technique to measure hourly energy balance -- that is, how many calories you are burning versus how many calories you are taking in. The researchers found that if you keep your hourly surplus or deficit within 300 to 500 calories at all times, you may increase the ability to change your body composition by losing fat and adding lean muscle mass. Those subjects with the largest energy imbalances (those who were over 500 calories in either ingestion or expenditure) were the fattest, while those with the most balanced energy levels were the leanest.

If you eat only your three square meals a day, you are creating major imbalances in your energy levels. Between meals, you're burning many more calories than you're taking in. At mealtimes, you're taking in many more than you're burning. Research shows that this kind of eating plan is great -- if your dream is to be a Sumo wrestler; but if you want to look slimmer, feel fitter, and (not coincidentally) live longer, then you need to eat more often. In the same study, subjects who added three snacks a day to their three regular meals balanced out their energy better, lost fat, and increased lean body mass (as well as increased their power and endurance).  A steady energy reserve for your body to draw on allows you to exercise longer and harder!

In a similar study, researchers in Japan found that two boxers who ate the same amount of calories a day from either two or six meals both lost an average of 11 pounds in 2 weeks. However, the guys who ate six meals a day lost 3 pounds more fat and 3 pounds less muscle than the ones who ate only two meals.  Severe caloric deficits seem to make the body cannibalize its muscle to maintain adequate energy for the internal organs to function.

Science supports the fact that more meals work, but the commonsense reason it works is because it does something that most diets don't do: It keeps you full and satiated, which reduces the likelihood of a diet-destroying binge. For scheduling purposes, try alternating your larger meals with smaller snacks. Eat two of your snacks roughly 2 hours before lunch and dinner, and one snack roughly 2 hours after dinner.  Bon appétit!

Sample time schedule:
8 a.m.: breakfast
11 a.m.: snack
1 p.m.: lunch
4 p.m.: snack
6 p.m.: dinner
8 p.m.: snack

Holly Aglialoro
Guest Blogger and Fitness Enthusiast

Topics: Healthy Living

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