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The top ten (intermittent) fasting myths debunked

Die Top Ten (Intermittent) Fasten Mythen widerlegt

You could just as well call this article "the top ten diet myths debunked", which would fit just as well. However, many of these diet myths (meal frequency, skipping breakfast, etc.) are also associated with intermittent fasting.

Anyone who learns about nutrition using the "usual channels" - be it fitness magazines, mainstream diet books or internet forums - will be confronted with what is currently considered the universal "belief system" about what constitutes a good diet.

While specific dietary recommendations may depend slightly on who you listen to, there are many common denominators and "rules" that you are told you must follow. Call it hearsay, incompetence or ignorance - it all boils down to the same thing. We've all been in this situation and we've all followed these rules. Even though these diet myths are primarily rampant in the bodybuilding and fitness community, many of them are also propagated ad nauseam in the mainstream media. On closer inspection, however, the vast majority of these myths lack a scientific basis. They are born out of half-wisdom, false conclusions from poorly conducted studies or studies cited in the wrong context. Sometimes what is claimed is exactly the opposite of what is really taking place on a physiological level. For example, many people believe that alcohol makes you fatter than any other macronutrient. However, if you look at how inefficiently the body converts ethanol into fat, it is the other way around. In this context, it should also be mentioned that the alleged negative effects of alcohol on muscle growth are not mentioned anywhere in the scientific literature.

You will see similar examples in this article. For example, it is often claimed that short-term fasting decreases the metabolic rate - but if you look at studies on the subject, the exact opposite is true.

The myths I want to debunk today are kept alive by the following:

  1. Repetition: repeat something often enough and it becomes the truth. If everyone says the same thing, then it must be true. There is no need to question it and think for yourself. The fact that bodybuilders and fitness stars continue to propagate these myths doesn't help either. Most people believe that if these people are doing it, it must be great. Unfortunately, bodybuilders and fitness stars may be the last people on earth you should listen to if you want objective and accurate opinions on nutrition.
  2. Commercial forces: The supplement industry benefits greatly from people who believe that regular meals provide metabolic benefits. People don't have the time to eat six cooked meals a day. Instead, they turn to meal replacement powders, shakes and protein bars. The cereal industry benefits greatly from preaching the benefits of breakfast for weight control, health and fat loss. There are no commercial benefits from telling people that they would do just as well with three full meals.
  3. Few people have the knowledge or interest to interpret scientific studies and draw their own conclusions: To do this, you would need an academic background that includes critical examinations of studies and study methodologies as part of the learning process.

However, an academic background or existing education in nutrition or physiology rarely seems to correlate with objectivity and honesty in the field of nutrition, in my experience. The advice and claims I have seen from many registered dietitians have been so flagrantly false that I have little confidence in what they say. The same is true of many "nutrition gurus" and so-called health experts with a solid list of academic credentials.

That these people, who should know better, continue to repeat the same myths is astonishing and strange. Perhaps they have lost interest in keeping up with the latest research. After all, what we know today is more than a little different from what we knew 20 years ago. Or maybe they're afraid that their credibility might be called into question if they revise the advice they've been giving for years? I've been thinking about this issue for a long time. But I'm going to digress. Back on topic.

The top ten (intermittent) fasting myths debunked

The dietary recommendations and advice given to us by the mainstream media and most forums will have you believing that fasting is an unhealthy practice. In addition to ruining your metabolism, you should expect uncontrollable hunger, fat gain, muscle loss and serious mental impairment. At least that's what they tell you. Needless to say, people seeing Leangains and the Intermittent Fasting concept for the first time have many fears that make them think twice about whether they really want to try it. Fears that are based on years of dietary indoctrination based on false ideas and lies. We've all been there.

I've listed below the ten most common fasting and dieting myths that exist to make people resistant to Intermittent Fasting. I've explained why they're false and linked studies and other sources for those looking for detailed information on the topic. I've also described the origin - or what I believe to be the origin - of these myths.

I've dealt with all of these myths before, but I thought it would be good to have it all in one place. Even if you've been following my articles for a while, you'll find some new information here that I haven't talked about in the past. This is going to be a long article, but it's worth the time.

Myth 1: Eat regularly to ignite the metabolic fire.

The Truth

Every time you eat something, your metabolic rate increases slightly for a few hours. Paradoxically, it takes energy to break down and absorb energy. This is the so-called thermic effect of food. The amount of energy you expend is directly proportional to the amount of calories and nutrients you consume during that meal.

Let's assume that we measure the thermic effect of food over 24 hours with a diet of 2700 kcal consisting of 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 20% fat. We perform three different runs where the only factor that changes is the meal frequency.

  • A) Three meals: 900 kcal per meal.
  • B) Six meals: 450 kcal per meal.
  • C) Nine meals: 300 kcal per meal.

What we will see is a different pattern of the thermal effect of the food. Example "A" would cause a stronger and longer lasting increase in metabolic rate, which would slowly decrease until the next meal. The thermal effect of the food would have a wavelike pattern. Example "C" would result in a weak but consistent increase in metabolic rate, while pattern "B" would be somewhere in the middle. At the end of the 24 hour phase - or as long as it would take to absorb these nutrients - there would be no difference in the thermic effect of the food. The total amount of energy consumed by the thermic effect of the food would be identical in each scenario. Meal frequency does not affect the overall thermic effect of food. You cannot trick the body into burning more or fewer calories by manipulating meal frequency.

The most extensive study review on meal frequency and the thermic effect of food was published in 1997. This review looked at many different studies comparing the thermic effect of food at different meal frequencies, ranging from one to 17 meals per day, and concluded: "Studies that used whole-body calorimetry and doubly labeled water to look at total energy expenditure over 24 hours found no difference between continuous munching and one large meal per day." Since then, no study has refuted this.

Just recently, a new study was published on the topic. As expected, this study found no difference between lower (3 meals) and higher (6 meals) meal frequency. This study got some attention in the mainstream media and it was nice to see the New York Times debunk this diet myth.

The origin of the myth

Looking at how conclusive and clear the study evidence is on meal frequency, you might wonder why some people, very often even doctors and dietitians, repeat the myth about firing up the metabolic fire and recommend eating small regular meals. I suspect that they have somehow misunderstood the thermic effect of food. Ultimately, they are technically correct when they say that you will keep your metabolic rate elevated if you eat regularly. However, they forget the critical part where it is explained that the thermic effect of food is proportional to the amount of calories in each meal consumed. Another assumption is that they are basing their advice on some epidemiological studies that show an inverse correlation between meal frequency and body weight in the general population. This means that scientists look at the dietary patterns of thousands of individuals and find that those who eat more frequently tend to weigh less than people who eat less often. It's important to emphasize that these studies were not controlled for calorie intake and were conducted with average people (i.e. normal people who don't count calories and eat spontaneously like most people).

There is a saying that correlation does not imply causation and this warrants further explanation as it also explains many other nutrition myths and misinterpretations. Just because there is a link between low meal frequency and higher body weight does not mean that low meal frequency causes weight gain.

These studies likely show that people who tend to eat less often have poorly regulated eating patterns - the type of personality who skips breakfast in favor of a donut in the car on the way to work, eats too little during the day and eats too much in the evening. This type of person is less concerned about their health and diet than the type of person who eats more often.

Another plausible explanation for the link between low meal frequency and higher body weight is that skipping meals is often used as a weight loss strategy. People who are overweight are more likely to be on a diet and eat fewer meals. The link between lower meal frequency and higher body weight in the general public and vice versa is related to behavioral patterns - not metabolism.

Myth 2: Eat smaller meals more often to better control your hunger

The truth

Considering how important it would be to find the best meal pattern to control hunger and appetite, there is a surprising lack of studies on the subject. The most commonly cited study is one in which overweight men were given 33% of their daily calorie needs either all at once or in the form of 5 separate meals before being allowed to eat as much as they wanted 5 hours later. A: A single meal was consumed. 5 hours later, subjects were free to eat as much as they wanted "buffet style". B: Same setup as before. However, the single meal was now split into 5 smaller meals, consumed every hour until the meal where subjects were free to eat as much as they wanted.

The results showed that subjects from scenario "A" consumed 27% more calories when they could eat as much as they wanted. The same setup was carried out by the same scientists with lean men and can produce similar results. On closer inspection, however, it quickly becomes clear how little these scenarios are transferable to the real world. The macronutrient composition of the one or five meals before the free meal was 70% carbohydrates, 15% fat and 15% protein in the form of pasta, ice cream and orange juice. The situation created was extremely artificial and abnormal. Who sits around eating pasta and ice cream and drinking orange juice every hour before a regular meal? The latest research, conducted under conditions that more closely resembled a real-world scenario, shows exactly the opposite result. In this study, three high-protein meals led to greater satiety and better appetite control than six high-protein meals. There is no doubt that meal frequency is highly individual. Absolute statements claiming that smaller meals are better in terms of hunger and appetite control are simply not true and are based on studies using methods that are very different from real-life situations. Current research using normal meal patterns and normal protein intake, which is closer to what can be observed in the context of a diet that is not completely dumbed down, suggests better appetite control when eating a smaller number of larger meals.

The origin of the myth

This myth may have its origins in the limited amount of data from studies on meal frequency and appetite control. It is also likely that this is another case of confounding correlation and causation from studies and meal frequency and higher body weights - if people who eat often weigh less, then this must mean that they are better able to control their hunger, etc.

Myth 3: Eat smaller meals to keep your blood sugar levels under control

The truth

According to legions of nutrition and health "experts", eating smaller meals more often will help you avoid hunger pangs, give you more stable energy levels throughout the day and keep you mentally sharp. But contrary to what many people believe, blood sugar is extremely well regulated and kept within a narrow range in healthy people. It won't fluctuate wildly up and down and it won't drop sharply if you don't eat for a few hours. This will not be the case even if you go a day or even a whole week without food. People seem to think that they will suffer from extreme hunger and extreme mental impairment if they don't eat so often. Think for a moment about the evolutionary consequences for human survival if this were true. Considering that regular periods of fasting and even famine were a natural part of life in the past, it is unlikely that we would be here today if we had not been able to function when finding food was most critical. I've seen healthy young men - bodybuilders in most cases - complain of lethargy and impaired mental function when they hadn't eaten for just a few hours. This is completely absurd. But I digress...

Maintaining blood sugar levels is a very high priority and we have developed efficient pathways to ensure this even in extreme circumstances. If you were to fast for 23 hours and then run for 90 minutes at 70-75% of your VO2max, your blood sugar would be the same after the run as it was before. It would take no less than 84 hours of fasting to reach blood sugar levels low enough to affect your mental state - and even this would only be temporary as your brain would adapt to the use of ketones. During 48 hours of fasting or serious calorie restriction, blood sugar will remain within a normal range and no marker of cognitive performance will be affected.

What about the relationship between blood sugar and hunger? Blood glucose is one of the many short-term feedback mechanisms used to control hunger and the prevailing notion that low blood glucose causes hunger is incorrect. Low simply means within the lower normal range. This is dependent on many factors including habitual diet, energy intake and genetic predispositions.

Probably most important is the issue of trained meal patterns, which are regulated by ghrelin and other metabolic hormones. Basically, this means that your blood sugar follows the meal pattern you are used to. This is relevant for those who fear blood sugar problems and hunger from regular periods of fasting, as it explains why people can easily adapt to regular periods of fasting without negative effects.

The origin of the myth

I'm not sure how people came to believe that skipping meals would negatively affect them. There is some truth in the statements about blood sugar and hunger, but this is often taken out of context. There is no need to eat regularly to maintain blood sugar levels as they are very self-regulating and will adapt to whatever meal pattern you choose.

Myth 4: Fasting puts the body into "starvation mode"

The truth

Efficient adaptations to famine were important for survival during harsh times in our evolution. Reducing the metabolic rate during starvation allowed us to survive longer and increased the likelihood of finding food in time. However, starvation in this context means starvation in the truest sense of the word. It does not mean skipping a meal or not eating for 24 hours. Or even not eating for three days. The view that skipping meals or short-term fasting triggers a "starvation mode" is therefore so ridiculous and absurd that I would like to jump out of the window at such statements.

After looking at numerous studies on this topic, there was an 8% reduction in resting metabolic rate after 60 hours of fasting at the earliest. Other studies come to the conclusion that the metabolic rate is only affected after 72 to 96 hours without food.

Seemingly paradoxically, the metabolic rate increases even during short-term fasting. Some studies have observed an increase in metabolic rate of 3.6 to 10% after 36 to 48 hours (Mansell PI, et al, and Zauner C, et al).

This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. Epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline and noradrenaline) sharpen the mind and make us more active. These are desirable qualities that encourage us to search for food, increasing the likelihood of survival. At some point after several days without food, this preference is no longer useful for survival and would likely do more harm than good. Instead, an adaptation that favors energy conservation has been shown to be beneficial. This is why metabolic rate is increased during short-term fasting (up to 60 hours).

I have also chosen extreme examples to show how absurd the "starvation mode" myth is - especially when you consider that the exact opposite is true in the context in which this term is thrown around.

The origin of the myth

I guess some genius once read that fasting or starvation causes the metabolic rate to drop and concluded that even skipping a meal or going without food for a day or two causes the metabolism to go into starvation mode.

Myth 5: Maintain a steady supply of amino acids by eating protein every 2 to 3 hours. The body can only absorb 30 grams of protein per meal

The truth

Whenever you hear something really crazy, ask yourself if it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. This is a great way to quickly find out if something is true or if it's more like a steaming pile of horseshit. This myth is an excellent example of the latter. Do you think we would be here today if our bodies could only use 30 grams of protein per meal?

The simple truth is that more protein simply takes more time to be digested and used. The digestion of a standard meal, for example, is not complete even after 5 hours. Amino acids are still being released into the bloodstream and absorbed by the muscles. You are still in an anabolic state. This was the case with an average meal: 600 kcal, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 37 grams of protein and 17 grams of fat. And the best of all? This was after eating a pizza - a processed food that should be absorbed relatively quickly.

How long do you think it would take to digest a large steak with twice the amount of protein and a large mountain of vegetables? More than 10 hours, that's for sure. Meal composition plays a big role in absorption speed - especially when it comes to amino acids. The type of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and previous meals all affect how long amino acids are released and absorbed by body tissues after a meal.

The origin of the myth

I think the "30 grams of protein" nonsense started circulating after the classic 1997 study by Boirie and colleagues. This study, entitled "Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion", was the first study to quantify the absorption rate of whey and casein protein and was the birth of the concept of fast and slow digesting proteins. After this, whey protein became known for its ability to rapidly increase amino acid levels in the bloodstream, while casein became known for generating a long-lasting release of amino acids - whey protein was anabolic and casein was anti-catabolic.

Due to the fact that 30 grams of whey protein was absorbed within 3 to 4 hours, I suspect that some people believed that this meant that only 30 grams of protein could be used by the body per meal. Or that you need to eat every 3 to 4 hours to stay "anabolic". Unfortunately, people overlooked a few facts that make these research findings irrelevant to real-world scenarios. First of all, this study looked at the absorption rate of whey protein in a fasted state. On its own, without any previous meals, 30 grams of whey protein is fully absorbed within just 3 to 4 hours. If meals have already been consumed earlier in the day or if you absorb a whey protein shake after a meal, absorption will be much slower. Secondly, whey protein is the fastest digesting protein and is digested at a rate of 10 grams per hour. Casein is digested much more slowly. In the Boirie study, casein was still being absorbed when the experiment ended after 7 hours. Most whole protein sources are digested at a rate of 3 to 6 grams per hour. Add in other macronutrients and it will take even longer.

Myth 6: Fasting causes muscle loss

The truth

This myth is related to many people's belief that it is important to have a continuous influx of amino acids to avoid losing muscle. As I explained earlier, protein is absorbed at a very slow rate. After a large protein-rich meal, amino acids trickle into the bloodstream over several hours. So far, no study has looked at this in a context that is relevant to most of us - for example, by examining changes in blood amino acid levels and amino acid utilization by body tissues after a large steak and veggies followed by cottage cheese with berries for dessert. That's easily 100 grams of protein and represents a typical meal for those following the Leangains approach. We have to draw our conclusions based on what we know - that a small amount of casein consumed in liquid form will still release amino acids after 7 hours. With this information in mind, it is not far-fetched to assume that 100 grams of protein as part of a mixed meal will release amino acids at the end of the day for 16 to 24 hours after consumption.

Few studies have examined the effects of regular fasting on the maintenance of muscle mass and compared it to a controlled diet. None of these studies are relevant to how most people fast and some are full of flaws and shortcomings in study design and methodology. One study, for example, showed an increase in muscle mass and fat loss without training or a change in calorie intake, but simply by changing meal frequency. Although I would love to cite this study as proof of the benefits of intermittent fasting, the body composition was determined using a bioelectrical impedance measurement, which is notoriously inaccurate. Only with prolonged fasting does protein catabolism become a problem. This occurs when the liver glycogen stores are depleted. To maintain blood glucose levels, a conversion of amino acids into glucose, known as novo glucogenesis or gluconeogenesis, must then take place. This happens gradually and if dietary amino acids are not available, protein from body stores such as muscle must be used.

Cahill looked at the contribution of amino acids to gluconeogenesis after loading with 100 grams of glucose. He found that muscle-derived amino acids contributed 50% to the maintenance of blood glucose levels after 16 hours and 100% after 28 hours (after liver glycogen stores were completely depleted). However, if you eat a protein-rich meal before starting the fast, this should not be a problem as there will be plenty of amino acids available from food during the fast.

The origin of the myth

This myth is a good example of a gross exaggeration of physiological and scientific facts that are completely irrelevant to someone who does not go through prolonged periods of fasting or starvation.

Myth 7: Skipping breakfast is bad and will make you fat

The truth

Skipping breakfast is associated by many with higher body weight. The explanation is similar to the one regarding lower meal frequency and higher body weight. People who skip breakfast have poorly regulated eating habits and pay less attention to their health. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be dieting and are therefore likely to be heavier by default than non-dieters. It is important to keep in mind that most people who skip breakfast are not the type of people who sit around reading about nutrition. Rather, they are more likely to be people who diet haphazardly. The type of person who goes on an 800 kcal crash diet and then quickly puts the lost weight back on.

An occasionally cited argument in favor of breakfast is that we have a higher insulin sensitivity in the morning. This is true, after an overnight fasting phase, insulin sensitivity will always be higher. In other words, your body will always have the highest insulin sensitivity at the first meal of the day, as insulin sensitivity increases after glycogen stores have been depleted. If you have not eaten for 8 to 10 hours, your liver glycogen stores will be slightly depleted. This increases insulin sensitivity - and not the magical time phase of the morning hours. The same applies to training. Insulin sensitivity is increased as long as your muscle glycogen stores are not full.

The origin of the myth

First, we have the large epidemiological studies that show a link between skipping breakfast and higher body weight in the general population. A researcher involved in one of these studies has commented on the link between skipping breakfast or food choices during breakfast as follows: "This group seems to represent people who are "on the go" and only have sweet stuff or sweet drinks in the morning or grab a glass of milk or a piece of cheese. Their high BMI seems to support the idea that 'dysregulated' eating habits, rather than total energy intake per se, are linked to obesity." Kellogs and haphazard nutritionists and doctors love to cite these studies over and over again, leading people to believe that breakfast has unique metabolic and health-related benefits. In reality, these studies simply show that people who eat breakfast generally have better eating habits.

Other regularly cited studies claiming that breakfast has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity are full of errors and flaws, and most have uncontrolled study designs. In one often-cited study, subjects were encouraged to eat most meals under "free-living conditions". The group that skipped breakfast ate more and gained weight, which negatively affected various health markers. Here is an excerpt from the study abstract "Reported energy intake was significantly lower during the breakfast period (P=0.001) and resting energy expenditure was not significantly different during the two time periods." Basically, people who ate breakfast were better able to control their energy intake during the rest of the day. They did not gain weight, while the group that did not eat breakfast gained weight. An increase in body fat always affects insulin sensitivity and also has negative effects on other health parameters. People interpreted this study to mean that breakfast is healthy and improves insulin sensitivity, which is not what the study showed.

8th myth: Fasting increases cortisol levels

The truth

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that maintains blood pressure, regulates the immune system and helps break down protein, glucose and fats. Cortisol is a hormone that has gotten a bad rap in the fitness and health community, but cortisol exists for a reason. The morning cortisol surge makes us look up and get active. Attenuated cortisol release in the morning is associated with lethargy and depression.

Cortisol levels are also elevated during exercise, which helps to mobilize fat, increase performance and create a feeling of euphoria during and after exercise. Trying to suppress acute increases in cortisol levels during exercise or during the normal circadian rhythm is foolish. Chronically elevated cortisol levels resulting from psychological and/or physiological stress are different and undoubtedly bad for health - they increase protein breakdown and appetite and can lead to depression.

Short-term fasting has no effect on average cortisol levels and this is an area that has been studied extensively in the context of fasting during the month of Ramadan. Cortisol levels typically follow diurnal rhythms, meaning that they peak around 8 in the morning and decrease in the evening. What changes during Ramadan is only the cortisol rhythm, while average cortisol levels remain unchanged over 24 hours.

In a study conducted with rugby players, the subjects lost fat while maintaining their muscle mass well. And they did this despite training in a dehydrated state with no protein intake before or after training and a lower overall protein intake. Here's a quote from the study: "Body mass decreased significantly and progressively over the 4 week phase, fat was lost, but lean body mass was maintained..." "...Plasma urea concentrations decreased during Ramadan, supporting the view that there was no increase in endogenous protein metabolism to compensate for the reduced protein intake."

In a study on intermittent fasting, a significant reduction in cortisol levels was observed in the fasting group. However, this study should be viewed with caution as it had some design flaws. In summary, there is no scientific data to support the view that fasting increases cortisol levels, which could then cause all sorts of mischief such as muscle loss.

The origin of the myth

Prolonged fasting or serious calorie restriction causes increased cortisol levels. This occurs in conjunction with depletion of liver glycogen stores, as cortisol accelerates gluconeogenesis, which is necessary to maintain blood glucose levels in the absence of dietary carbohydrate, protein or stored glycogen. Again, someone seems to have looked up what happens during starvation and concluded that even short-term fasting is bad.

Myth 9: Exercising while fasting is no good. You will lose muscle and have no strength.

The truth

A large body of research on exercise performance during Ramadan has concluded that aerobic activities such as 60 minutes of running are slightly impaired. However, one of the main culprits for this is dehydration, as Ramadan fasting involves restricting fluid intake. Anaerobic activities such as training with weights, on the other hand, are only affected to a much lesser extent. More relevant and conclusive studies that do not include fluid restriction, however, show that strength and endurance in the less intensive range are not affected even after 3.5 days of fasting. New research on training in a fasting state supports this. If you read my review of this study, you will see that the only parameter that was better in the non-fasting group was an improvement in VO2max, which can probably be explained by the fact that the allowed carbohydrates allowed the members of this group to train at a higher intensity. In contrast, another study on the same topic showed no effect of fasting on endurance or VO2max. This can be explained by a lower intensity. In summary, training in a fasted state does not affect your performance while training with weights, which is probably what readers of this article are most interested in. However, training in a complete fasted state is not something I would recommend for optimal progress. Scientific research shows a pretty clear picture as to the benefits of pre- and post-workout protein intake for maximizing protein synthesis. For this reason, I recommend supplementing with 10 grams of BCAAs before a fasted state workout.

The origin of the myth

It is indeed intuitive that a large meal before training should support performance, which is why it is not surprising that so many people have their doubts about training on an empty stomach.

Myth 10: "Eat breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king and dinner like a beggar."

The truth

This adage is linked to the idea that you should reduce carbohydrates in the evening as they are more likely to be stored as fat. While this may sound good on paper, there is no scientific data to support this and plenty to show that it is wrong.

The strongest argument against this is the numerous studies available on body composition and health after Ramadan fasting. This meal pattern of regular fasting has neutral or positive effects on body fat percentage and other health markers. This is quite an extreme and telling example. People are literally stuffing themselves with carbohydrates and treats at night with no negative effects. And yet, in the bizarre world of bodybuilding and fitness, people worry about whether it's okay to eat 50 grams of carbohydrates during the last meal of the day.

If the scientific data on Ramadan fasting isn't enough, there are plenty of other studies showing that eating later in the day has no effect on weight loss or weight loss.

In a study comparing two meal schedules, where one group ate more calories earlier in the day while the other group ate most of their calories later in the day, more desirable results were observed in the group that ate large meals in the evening.

While those who ate more in the morning lost more weight, they lost that weight in the form of muscle mass. Those who ate late at night were better able to maintain their muscle mass, which resulted in a greater reduction in body fat percentage.

The origin of the myth

Just as skipping breakfast is associated with higher body weight in the general population, so is eating later in the evening. If you've read this far in the article, you'll understand the logical fallacy behind the statement that eating late at night must cause weight gain based on population studies. People who eat late at night and munch on chips while watching TV are more likely to weigh more than others. However, it is not the fact that they eat late at night that is responsible for this - it is their lifestyle. No controlled studies have shown that larger evening meals have a negative impact on body composition compared to meals eaten earlier in the day.

Sometimes studies conducted with shift workers are cited to claim that eating late at night is bad. These studies are all uncontrolled (in terms of calorie intake) and such observational studies are further confounded by the fact that shift work has its own independent negative effects on some health parameters such as glucose tolerance and blood lipid levels. You should keep this in mind. Context is always relevant.

Although I don't usually cite studies conducted with animals, I recently read an article about a study that disproved the myth that eating late at night makes you fat, using rhesus monkeys as an example. This study is worth mentioning because monkeys are metabolically closer to humans than rodents. To summarize, I would say that I should have written this article much earlier - it would have saved me a lot of time.

I would appreciate it if you would recommend this article to other unfortunate people who have been misled into believing some of this nonsense that is put out there. Based on my experiences and the experiences of others, these misconceptions have driven many people to obsessive eating regimes that can do quite a bit of damage to physical and mental well-being. Let's try to put an end to this and save people from this fate.


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