|There are more than six ways to get six-pack abs - trust me.|
The optimal diet strategy? Trying what works best for you!
The latest reason for me to question that there is only one way to get ripped (and that this includes eating just one meal per day), is the publication of a study by Paul J. Arciero et al. who found that "Increased Protein Intake and Meal Frequency Reduces Abdominal Fat During Energy Balance and Energy Deficit" (Arciero. 2013)
To assess the effects of different dietary regimen, the scientists from the Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, the Florida State University in Tallahassee, the Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the Army Institute of Public Health. Recruited 30 individuals through newspaper advertisements and flyers.
The participants were then randomly assigned to a dietary interventions in the course of which they consumed their habitual diets for 5 days (this was meant to get a baseline reading), a balanced diet for 28 days and a diet with a negative energy balance (-25%) for another 28 days (see Figure 1 for macros).
"Participants were nonsmoking, healthy men and women with no known cardiovascular or metabolic diseases as assessed by a medical history and a comprehensive medical examination by their physicians.
A previous study by Dr. Bray showed: When all is said and done calories count | read more
All participants were inactive (<30 min, 2d/wk or structured physical activity), overweight or obese (BMI >30.36 +/- 5.9 kg/m²)), middle aged (46 years), and weight stable (62 kg) for at least 6 months prior to beginning the study." (Arciero. 2013)
"All nutrition plans for each group (TD3, HP3, and HP6) during BAL and NEG were similar in fat (20-25% total energy) and low in glycemic index (<50). It is important to highlight that the composition of all diets emphasized unprocessed, unrefined, high nutrient-density whole foods and were thus high in fruits, vegetables, unsaturated plant oils, and lean sources of protein.Irrespective of whether the energy content was balanced or negative (see Figure 1) the TD3 & HP3 diets contained only three meals. On the other hand, the HP6 diet with its six meals per day stands for the almost forgotten "eat more frequent meals to lose more fat" paradigm of the late 20th century.
A 7-day menu plan was provided to all participants for the entire 62-day intervention. These meal plans included seven choices for each breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and mini-meals for HP6) that were modified for each person’s specific caloric needs and designed by a registered dietician (RD) using the Food Processor SQL Edition (version 10.7.0, ESHA Research, Salem,OR, 2010) using common foods [...] It is important to highlight that each individual meal consumed during the 28-day BAL and NEG phases was designed to deliver the same macronutrient distribution pattern as the overallnutritional plan for each group" (Arciero. 2013)
Thermogenesis anyone? Suggested read: "MCT + Chili Make a Pretty HOT Pair: 50% Increase in Diet Induced Thermogenesis in Well-Controlled Human Trial" | read more
|Figure 1: Macronutrient composition (in g; left) and glycemic index + total calories (right) of the test diets (Arciero. 2013)|
|Figure 2: Body fat composition expressed relative control diet (left); Kcal expenditure / kcal intake (right; Arciero. 2013)|
Before you freak out and start curing, let me remind you that the results of the study at hand do not imply that there are no other ways to improve your body composition.
"Given daily energy intake and expenditure were tightly controlled throughout the 62-day intervention and were similar among groups, differences in body composition may be due to changes in macronutrient distribution (%) of the diets and not to changes in total caloric intake or energy expenditure, as others have documented previously (Bray. 2012; Larsen 2010). Close attention was given to ensure that all participants consumed similar high-quality foods and only the ratio of macronutrients and frequency of meals consumed among the three groups differed. This novel finding highlights the benefits of HP6 in the absence of change in total macronutrient (kcal) intake on ABF loss and may have profound influence on public health policy regarding nutrient intake recommendations for adults."
So can you? I mean, can you really get rid of hunger pangs by upping the protein content of your meals? Yes, you can, but as usual, there is a string attached, here. One of the infamous "on the other hands": "The Satiating Truth About Proteins and Why High Protein and Low Amounts of Low GI Carbs Don't Mix Well" | read more
Improved diet-quality alone cuts body fat and increases postprandial thermogenesis
Moreover, my personal highlight of the study is not the effect of the meal frequency or the high protein content. My personal highlight is that the improvement in diet quality, which was brought about by the switch from the regular (control) diet (actually I was implied to write dirt instead of "diet) to a balanced diet that was high in fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein. That alone lead to a significant fat loss even in the "balanced" calorie intake period.
It was also this change in diet quality and not the praised increase in protein intake that brought about a significant increase in the thermogenic response to a meal by 30% - with the highest postprandial thermogenesis being observed in the TD3 group - the group with the lower protein intake (393kcal/90min, 353kcal/90min and 348kcal/90min in the TD3, HP3 and HP6 arm of the study)!
- Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Gentile CL, Nindl BC, Brestoff JR, Ruby M. Increased protein intake and meal frequency reduces abdominal fat during energy balance and energy deficit. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jul;21(7):1357-66.
- Bray GA, Smith SR, de Jonge L, et al. Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial.JAMA. 2012;307:47-55
- La Bounty PM, Campbell BI, Wilson J, Galvan E, Berardi J, Kleiner SM, Kreider RB, Stout JR, Ziegenfuss T, Spano M, Smith A, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011 Mar 16;8:4.
- Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, et al. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance. N Engl J Med. 2010;363: 2102-2113