I was fat back in college. Besides the usual culprits – eating crap and not moving around much – I got porky by skipping breakfast and overcompensating at night. Breakfast was coffee, lunch was whatever I could get for three dollars at Taco Bell, and dinner was everything I could shovel in that wouldn't fight back.
Nothing disrupts your metabolism and dietary behaviors more efficiently than that eating pattern.
I lost the fat, but I've had to develop several strategies over the years to keep it off. One of the most important strategies has been to kick that fat-guy eating pattern to the curb.
My personal rules today are: eat breakfast and avoid eating about three hours before bed. And these two things go together.
Frontloading for the Win
Study after study backs up eating breakfast for fat loss and maintaining leanness. Breakfast has an autoregulatory effect. It helps you regulate your appetite hormones throughout the day. Eat a healthy breakfast, or try to just frontload your daily calories, and you're also much less likely to overeat at night.
I train in the morning, so a typical day might start like this:
- 5:30 AM: Finibar™
- 7:30 AM: Workout nutrition (Plazma™)
- 8:45 AM: Oatmeal, protein powder, fruit or berries
That's over 1300 calories by 9 o'clock in the morning. That's frontloading.
I'll have lunch (meat and veggies) and a couple of snacks (raw almonds and seeds) then eat a healthy dinner. Because I start the day with a good number of calories, I've normalized my appetite, so skipping the nighttime snacks and not eating three hours before falling asleep is easier.
"Easier" but not always easy, because our bad habits can override what our physiology is telling us. So you have to learn the difference between cravings and real hunger.
When I first adopted the "no food before bed" rule, I had to sit there and think about how satiated I was from dinner. I'd get the urge to snack before bed even though my stomach was still digesting dinner. That was habit, not hunger. But the more successful nights I had, the easier it became. Autoregulation again.
"But, but I don't even want breakfast!"
I get it, but remember this is a sign that your hormones – primarily ghrelin and leptin and their effects on the brain chemicals NPY, AGRP, and POMC – are dysfunctional. But they can be repaired.
Start with the "no food three hours before bed" guideline and the rest will come naturally. You'll wake up ready to eat, like you're supposed to.
The Default Pattern for Long Term Leanness
Sure, you can experiment with things like intermittent fasting, keto, or whatever. There's a time and place for stricter/wackier diets, but frontloading calories and not eating before bed should be your default pattern for keeping the chub off for the long term.
That's simply how your body and its elegant array of hormones and chemicals was designed to work.