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.
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.
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?
There are actually studies showing merits [1-3] but many others that showed no statistical difference [4-13]
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:
From a study examining fasted vs. fed groups performing cardio 
“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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