Appetite control mechanism
Eating three large meals a day is not the best way to lose weight. If you do not divide your food intake so that you keep the levels of blood sugar stable, what happens is that you lose muscle and gain fat. Eating three big meals per day keeps your fat untouched. One big meal per day is even worse, this way your body stores more fat because it becomes stressed and thinks you will starve so the appetite control mechanism turns on. When this hunger mechanism kicks in, the body starts using muscle for energy and stores fat. You should do something about it – for examplem start lifting weights and eating more protein. This way you will send a message to your body that it needs its muscles and should burn fat instead.
What should you do instead?
Start having 5 small meals a day and make sure each one includes protein. This should become your priority. This is the only way to constantly provide your body with the nutrients it needs to build muscle and keep blood sugar levels stable. If your foods contain the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fat, you will keep your insulin leves under control.
Note that I said every meal should include protein. Why? Because it contains muscle-building amino acids. They will preserve muscle tissue instead of burning it for energy. Protein also supresses appetite. And another bonus is that protein has a high thermic effect which means that your body will burn more calories.
Higher energy expenditure
More protein in your diet helps burn more calories because more energy is needed for digesting protein as opposed to other macronutrients. You burn additional calories without doing anything!
As you know, protein also helps you build and maintain bigger and stronger muscles. But here is the thing you probably do not know: the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. All this helps develop a faster metabolic rate. This sounds great but do not fall into the trap of eating protein all the time. Carbohydrates and fats are also very important. If you eat too much protein but not enough carbohydrates the body will turn protein into glucose for energy. Glucose helps muscle and brain function so this is very important! If you restrict the carbohydrates too much your body would convert protein for fuel, which is called gluconeogenesis, leaving waste products, many of which toxic. Can you guess where your body stores these toxins? Yes, in the fat cells. So eating high amounts of protein could make it harder to burn fat.
What about the fats? Believe it or not, they can be your ally as long as they are not too much and from the right types. When approximately 25% of your daily calories come from fat, fat-burning is increased. One of the reasons is that when there is little fat and it is accessible as an energy source, it makes your body actually burn fat – not only because of what you eat but because of the body fat you have stored. This happens if you are in a caloric deficit (eating less calories than you consume) and do not overeat carbohydrates.
Creating a calorie deficit with enough protein, carbohydrates and little fat should prepare your body to use fat as energy. It also helps your body secrete anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. If your fat intake hits zero this deprives the body of essential hormones making it use only protein and carbohydrates for its daily needs of energy.
Many women also think that if they exercise they will become like bodybuilders. This is not true. Exercising gives the female body metabolic boost and more definition at the right places. Women can't build too much muscle because of their hormonal balance – more estrogen, less testosterone.
The three important rules!
Have 5 small, frequent meals, each of which containing some protein and NEVER skip breakfast. Remember that you should keep your blood sugar levels stable and minimize insulin peaks because if you don't it makes your body store fat (an exception to this rule is post-workout meal).
Increase protein intake and decrease carbohydrates intake (but by too much). Your body will use more energy for digesting the protein which burns additional calories. The extra amounts of protein also increase your metabolic rate and stimulate anabolic hormones which increase muscle mass - the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
Include fats in your diet. Especially essential fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish and nuts.