Three Square Meals + Protein = Weight Loss?

big meals better than smallThe latest trend in nutrition has been the notion that eating small, frequent meals is essential for optimum weight loss. However, according to an article published this week in Obesity, there may be a better way of eating to maintain satiety and weight loss. A new research study from Purdue University found that eating fewer, regular-sized meals with higher amounts of lean protein can make one feel fuller than eating smaller, more frequent meals.

The study consisted of 27 obese and overweight men who were divided into a high-protein group and a normal-protein group. They all consumed a calorie-restricted diet for 12 weeks, eating an average of about 2,400 calories per day. The amount of protein varied between each group. According to the article, the normal-protein diet was composed of 14 percent of energy from protein, 60 percent from carbohydrate and 26 percent from fat. The high-protein diet had the same amount of fat but 25 percent of energy from protein and 49 percent from carbohydrate. An example of the protein difference in the groups’ meals is illustrated here:

The normal-protein group’s main sources of protein at a breakfast would be sausage made from vegetable proteins. In comparison, the main source for the high-protein group would be sausage, also made from vegetable proteins, as well as an egg substitute and Canadian bacon. The high-protein diet specifically included 25 percent of total protein intake from pork and 15 percent from egg products. Both sources helped contribute the amino acids and nutrients people need daily. This amount of protein for the high-protein group was estimated at 200 calories per meal.

To test out how frequency of meals affects hunger levels, the participants consumed the same amount of calories but with a different distribution: three times a day by eating every five hours vs. six times a day eating every two hours. The large meals were about 750 calories each, while the smaller meals eaten every two hours were about 375 calories each. Participants also recorded their hunger level hourly.

Heather J. Leidy, who is an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri and researcher of this study, concludes that the higher protein diet led to higher satiety levels: “We found that when eating high amounts of protein, men who were trying to lose weight felt fuller throughout the day; they also experienced a reduction in late-night desire to eat and had fewer thoughts of food.”

Dr. Emma Patterson, bariatric surgeon at Oregon Weight Loss Surgery, commented on the study: “This is an interesting study on the effect of high protein meals and meal size and satiety. However, it is important to note that these patients had not had bariatric surgery, and patients who have had surgery may need to eat smaller more frequent meals. Patients who have bariatric surgery should always follow up with their surgeon and bariatric team, and follow their specific dietary recommendations.”

You can read ScienceDaily’s article here.


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