Skip to main content

Weight Loss - Is little and often, still the way to go?


I'm not on a diet

Ask around, either in the office or friends, someone is on a 'diet'. As we get closer to the summer season and the thought for some people donning swimwear, is somewhat of a scary one. When it comes to weight loss we are always quick to dismiss the tried and tested methods and adopt the so-called miracle cure. Try these tablets, fasting, stop eating carbs, skip breakfast, drink apple cider vinegar - these are some of the dietary hints and tips that are often heard banded around.

Here's our Head Nutritionist Gareth Nicholas to share his thoughts. Some of those methods may have some merit, but typically the tried and trusted approach to weight loss is a total calorie restriction through exercise and diet, with a general focus on eating smaller portions, more frequently, across the day. But is that still the right way to go?

Key Points

  • Don't skip meals in an attempt to lower your overall calorie consumption.
  • It's better to eat more calories in the morning than later in the day, to support weight loss.
  • Eating more calories in the morning will reduced your overall daily calorie consumption.
  • Eating breakfast helps to burn fat.
  • Your calorie intake isn't just governed by what you eat. What you see, feel and do, will all have an effect.

Calorie Restriction

You may be forgiven in thinking that skipping meals is a good way to reduce your calorie consumption. Of course, mathematically this works, but in truth, dietary social studies have shown that skipping meals, in particular breakfast, lead to an increased calorie consumption later in the day. This is primarily through increased hunger and making unhealthy food choices later in the day, and hence the general recommendation of trying to reduce larger portion sizes to affect the overall calorie count. Take a look at Maximuscle's weight loss tips debunked.

Calorie restriction or a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight

Eat more now, rather than later

The majority of research into weight loss has been conducted on an untrained overweight population, rather than the active athletic population, so this may not hold true for everyone. But when comparing calorie consumption with meal timings, the resultant weight loss has produced some surprising outcomes. Scientific studies have shown that consuming more calories earlier in the day, at breakfast as opposed to the evening meal, is more beneficial in weight loss. There is a catch however, with some of the weight loss, actually being a reduction in fat free mass (muscle). As such, the long-term use of this regime and certainly its application in the athletic population maybe somewhat limited.

In the untrained overweight population, the evidence also shows that consuming a higher calorie load in the morning, seems to keep the daily calorie intake in-check, whereas those that consumed extra calories in the evening, had a greater tendency to consuming more calories in total. Seems a strange result - more time, the potential for more consumption? But perhaps it's more of a case that hunger and the mental restraint in the morning, opens the flood gates in the evening.

From a fat perspective

The justification for having breakfast, is not just because it's the most important meal of the day or because it kick-starts metabolism, although that is partly true, but because skipping breakfast delays lipolysis, the breakdown of fats to release fatty acids, and increases in body fat production, more so than having breakfast. On the flip side consuming breakfast has been shown to markedly reduced triglyceride levels and improve insulin sensitivity (Jakubowicz et al., 2013).


This all sounds pretty good and well worth front loading your daily calorie intake, but hang on a minute, as mentioned earlier, all of these studies were conducted on the untrained and the potential loss of muscle mass. Something that you probably want to avoid. 

Meal Frequency

So, it seems at least for the untrained, perhaps eating more or at least some breakfast is highly beneficial when trying to lose weight, but what about meal frequency - the notion of eating little and often. When a calorie restriction is enforced, the influence of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition is secondary to the total calorie consumption. Contrary to this conclusion is when exercise is included alongside the higher meal frequency. In all honesty, the research completed to date struggles to rule out other intrinsic factors, such as hunger, insulin sensitivity and energy levels. Along with the extrinsic factors, such as food costs, marketing and advertising.


With no concrete answers, why not experiment? Try training fasted on your morning sessions, perhaps the energy-release and exercise satisfaction will keep the latent hunger pangs at bay. Or perhaps try having a higher carbohydrate and calorie load in the morning but ensure to hit 20-40g of protein in each of your mid-afternoon snack, evening meal and night time snack. At Maximuscle, we still believe that the best approach, especially to support training, lose weight and build muscle, is to adopt a higher meal frequency approach, eat little and often but keep that protein consumption to 0.8-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Experiment, give things and try and let us know via social, how you are getting on.

Further Reading

1. Arciero, P. J., Ives, S. J., Norton, C., Escudero, D., Minicucci, O., O'Brien, G., ... & He, F. (2016). Protein-pacing and multi-component exercise training improves physical performance outcomes in exercise-trained women: the PRISE 3 study. Nutrients, 8(6), 332.

2. Jakubowicz, D., Barnea, M., Wainstein, J., & Froy, O. (2013). High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity, 21(12), 2504-2512. 

3. Kerksick, C. M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B. J., Stout, J. R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C. D., ... & Willoughby, D. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 33.

4. Kulovitz, M. G., Kravitz, L. R., Mermier, C., Gibson, A. L., Conn, C. A., Kolkmeyer, D., & Kerksick, C. M. (2014). Potential role of meal frequency as a strategy for weight loss and health in overweight or obese adults. Nutrition, 30(4), 386-392.