Nutrition: Focus on the Big Picture



Nutrition: Focus on the Big Picture

By Dylan Madigan


It is an all too common practise for people to jump into too much at once when they begin to diet. In almost every case they would have been better off focusing on a few basics instead of looking into very advanced or specific diet techniques and plans.


What are the nutrition basics and big picture? See them here:


Some things to know from this:


Your total caloric intake relative to your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is the biggest factor that determines your rate of fat loss or gain.





Meal Frequency:

One thing people hear about and jump into is that higher meal frequency “revs up the metabolism”. This is still commonly assumed. A big objection to that theory is Intermittent Fasting, where 1-2 meals (often) daily works perfectly well for people to diet to any goal.


So what is the consensus?


Body Composition:

There are actually studies showing merits [1-3] but many others that showed no statistical difference [4-13]


Metabolic Rate:

In every case, there no statistical difference between various meal frequency groups. [14-18]

**Worth noting, some health markers did see more benefit from high frequency [19, 20] but remember that in the big picture we are ideally eating correctly, and with a proper diet over a long time all health markers should see improvement regardless.


Take home on Meal Frequency: 

There doesn’t seem to be a big difference. The best method to use is the one you can maintain and enjoy while sticking to your diet. Some people enjoy more meals, some people enjoy fewer. Go with your preference.


Let’s hit some other theories:




Fasted Cardio:

From a study examining fasted vs. fed groups performing cardio [21]


“Both groups showed a significant loss of weight (P = 0.0005) and fat mass (P = 0.02) from baseline, but no significant between-group differences were noted in any outcome measure. These findings indicate that body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training.”


Just as it said, there is often no difference so long as overall dietary consumption and activity level are the same.


Late Night eating, does it make you fat?

The short answer is no. [22-27]


Why not? Because of the big picture.


So what is the big picture?

The big picture is to have you average dietary intake taken care of on a whole. Don’t worry about your meal timing, don’t worry about trying to be fasted for exercise, don’t worry how often you eat. Do all of these things the way you can best manage while sticking to your diet to reach your goals. Your caloric total and how much above or below your total daily energy expenditure is the big picture.



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Am J Physiol 1959, 196(5):965-8.

2- Cohn C, Shrago E, Joseph D: Effect of food administration on weight gains and body composition of normal and adrenalectomized rats.

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3- Heggeness FW: Effect of Intermittent Food Restriction on Growth, Food Utilization and Body Composition of the Rat.

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4- Dreon DM, Frey-Hewitt B, Ellsworth N, Williams PT, Terry RB, Wood PD: Dietary fat:carbohydrate ratio and obesity in middle-aged men.

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5- Kant AK, Schatzkin A, Graubard BI, Ballard-Barbach R: Frequency of eating occasions and weight change in the NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study.

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8- Crawley H, Summerbell C: Feeding frequency and BMI among teenagers aged 16-17 years.

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9- Titan SM, Welch A, Luben R, Oakes S, Day N, Khaw KT: Frequency of eating and concentrations of serum cholesterol in the Norfolk population of the European prospective investigation into cancer (EPIC-Norfolk): cross sectional study.

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11- Pearcey SM, de Castro JM: Food intake and meal patterns of weight-stable and weight-gaining persons.

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12- Yannakoulia M, Melistas L, Solomou E, Yiannakouris N: Association of eating frequency with body fatness in pre- and postmenopausal women.

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15- Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR, Kester AD: Effect of the pattern of food intake on human energy metabolism.

Br J Nutr 1993, 70(1):103-15.

16- Garrow JS, Durrant M, Blaza S, Wilkins D, Royston P, Sunkin S: The effect of meal frequency and protein concentration on the composition of the weight lost by obese subjects.

Br J Nutr 1981, 45(1):5-15.

17- Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR: Frequency of feeding, weight reduction and energy metabolism.

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18- Taylor MA, Garrow JS: Compared with nibbling, neither gorging nor a morning fast affect short-term energy balance in obese patients in a chamber calorimeter.

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19- Kudlicka V, Fabry P, Dobersky P, Kudlickova V: Nibbling versus Meal Eating in the Treatment of Obesity.

Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Nutrition, Hamburg 1966, 2:246.

20- Jenkins DJ, Wolever TM, Vuksan V, Brighenti F, Cunnane SC, Rao AV, Jenkins AL, Buckley G, Pattern R, Singer W: Nibbling versus gorging: metabolic advantages of increased meal frequency.

N Engl J Med 1989, 321(14):929-34.

21- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2014, 11:54  doi:10.1186/s12970-014-0054-7   Published: 18 November 2014

22- Al-Hourani HM, Atoum MF Body composition, nutrient intake and physical activity patterns in young women during Ramadan . Singapore Med J. (2007)

23- Sensi S, Capani F Chronobiological aspects of weight loss in obesity: effects of different meal timing regimens . Chronobiol Int. (1987)

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26- Sofer S, et al Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner . Obesity (Silver Spring). (2011)

27- Schlundt DG, et al The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial . Am J Clin Nutr. (1992)

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