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Many people believe that skipping a meal will cause them to gorge later. Eating, they say, boosts the metabolism and balances blood sugar. It’s what we’ve heard for years from so-called experts.
Let’s look at this.
It’s claimed that the digestion of food increases metabolism, because the process of digestion costs calories. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). The cost of digestion varies with the type of food eaten, but the average cost is about 10% of the calories for that meal.
So it makes little sense to eat a 400 calorie meal to make your metabolism burn 40 calories. You still have to deal with 360 calories you just threw down the hatch, when the body most likely didn’t need them.
In healthy individuals, blood sugar is NOT LIKELY TO FALL. The body has a robust system that stabilizes blood sugar during extended non-feeding periods (like fasting).
Many people are afraid that skipping a meal causes them to overeat at the next meal. Although some people have better control than others, the tendency to overeat after skipping a meal (or several) does exist.
However, because your stomach is elastic, it naturally stretches and rebounds. Although the stomach does not “shrink,” it does rebound back to its empty state. In the time it takes to eat a meal, it may get stretched to the point of discomfort. So if one is most likely to gorge at the next meal, the total amount may be 15% to 30% above a normal meal. Beyond that is rare, and likely indicates a behavioral problem more than a physical need.
So even if you overeat by 30%, you’re still ahead of the game, as you’ve skipped an entire meal earlier.
The Benefit of Skipping a Meal
Skipping a meal, whether inadvertently or by design, is no different from the practice of Intermittent Fasting (IF), and with this comes the benefits similar to those with IF. These benefits include increased insulin sensitivity, decreased insulinemia, increased fat metabolism, increased protein enzymes, enhanced nutrient uptake, etc. A benefit we should add to the list is that skipping meals is an option to reducing overall calorie intake.
But even if overall caloric intake does not decrease, the other benefits seen with skipping meals can enhance health and may stimulate fat loss.