How effective is ONE meal per day for our fat loss goals?

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Weight Loss

Estimated reading time: 4mins

How effective is ONE meal per day for our fat loss goals

One meal per day for fat loss?

If you had said this twenty years ago, you would have been laughed out of the room.

But today, thanks to data into Ramadan fasting subjects, we now have many studies to draw upon.

The old adage was "multiple meals per day to spike your metabolism!" Such was eaten up by the general public trying to lose weight, and many thought it was weight loss gospel.

But behind the scenes, scientists were proving it wrong in studies like this one; that found eating three or six meals makes no difference to fat loss.

Moreover, this study found as long as the calorie deficit was tuned the same between groups, multiple meals didn't make a difference for fat loss.

Really, what fat loss comes down to is a calorie deficit.

Regardless of your method, research shows that's what will make your diet a success.

Let's say your macronutrients for fat loss are:

  • Protein: 150 grams
  • Fat: 80 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 170 grams

And factoring in all your exercise, you're tuned to a 20% calorie deficit.

Here are two different ways you can approach this:

  • One meal per day approach:
    • Breakfast: Nothing
    • Lunch: Nothing
    • Dinner: 80% of your macronutrients within a three-hour period
    • Before bed: 20% of your macronutrients

The alternative version is:

  • Three meals per day approach:
    • Breakfast: 1/3 of your macronutrients
    • Lunch: 1/3 of your macronutrients
    • Dinner: 1/3 of your macronutrients
    • Before bed: Protein shake to knock hunger on the head.

The truth is that both work. Both will serve your fat loss goals well.

So, which one is best for you? Well...

The best diet in the world is the one you find easiest to stick to!

There's no point in trying a diet that you hate, that makes you miserable.

The best diet is the one you can stick to consistently!
The best diet is the one you can stick to consistently!

I've seen people lose their minds trying to eat one meal per day. I've seen others really love it, and others enjoy having two-three meals per day.

Don't beat yourself up if it takes some experimenting, that's what fat loss success can take and some time!

Is one meal per day good for my metabolism?

And here's the other myth again: one meal per day must be dreadful for your metabolism?

The 80s and 90s were awash with people peddling the "stoke the metabolic fire by eating every 3-4 hours!"

But this very recent study confirmed what we've known for a while: one meal per day makes no difference to your metabolism when compared to those eating three meals per day.

The other concern has always been strength and performance. Surely eating more is better.

Well, the same study found the same thing; strength wasn't hindered in the one meal per day group.

Moreover, this study into resistance-trained men eating all their calories in an 8-hour window found no changes in muscle strength or mass.

This is of course only eight weeks, and maybe, after that period, it might have gotten difficult for them. Or maybe not at all! More research is needed but there are currently no loud alarm bells.

If this is a style of diet you want to undertake, go for it! And be sure to monitor your results with a DEXA scan, if possible, along the way: are you losing mass from weeks 8, 20, 30? Unlikely, but it's critical to know.

If you're going to spend hours in the gym, you'd want to know that what you're doing is right!

Moreover, check in with yourself regularly: do you feel like you have the same energy to lift when you haven't eaten versus when you have?

If you're training with one meal per day, monitor your results and how you feel!
If you're training with one meal per day, monitor your results and how you feel!

Ultimately, you'll know the answer. We don't need to make weight loss any harder than it can sometimes be!

The bottom line on one meal per day

One meal per day can help you lose weight. Whether or not you can maintain such a lifestyle and find it easy to do is up to you. The best diet for you is the one you find easiest to stick to. The old adage that we need multiple meals per day to "spike" our metabolisms is not supported by science. One meal a day will not slow down your metabolism and is the same as eating three meals for weight loss. Studies show it also shouldn't affect your muscle mass or strength.

References:

  1. Meessen ECE, Andresen H, van Barneveld T, van Riel A, Johansen EI, Kolnes AJ, Kemper EM, Olde Damink SWM, Schaap FG, Romijn JA, Jensen J, Soeters MR. Differential Effects of One Meal per Day in the Evening on Metabolic Health and Physical Performance in Lean Individuals. Front Physiol. 2022 Jan 11;12:771944. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.771944. PMID: 35087416; PMCID: PMC8787212.
  2. Moro T, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Marcolin G, Pacelli QF, Battaglia G, Palma A, Gentil P, Neri M, Paoli A. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med. 2016 Oct 13;14(1):290. doi: 10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0. PMID: 27737674; PMCID: PMC5064803.
  3. Ohkawara K, Cornier MA, Kohrt WM, Melanson EL. Effects of increased meal frequency on fat oxidation and perceived hunger. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(2):336-343. doi:10.1002/oby.20032
  4. Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann NutrMetab. 2007;51(5):428-32. doi: 10.1159/000111162. Epub 2007 Nov 20. PMID: 18025815.
  5. Yildiran H, Mercanligil SM. Does increasing meal frequency improve weight loss and some biochemical parameters in overweight/obese females? Nutr Hosp. 2019 Mar 7;36(1):66-72. English. doi: 10.20960/nh.2191. PMID: 30836763.
group of product images for proteins
group of product images for proteins