For some, busy schedules get in the way. After all, we’re all juggling a number of priorities – and food doesn’t always make the top of the list. For others, meal skipping is a way to cut calories and lose weight. Some people don’t eat because of financial or religious reasons. And still others skip meals because they’re just not hungry.
But how does skipping meals impact your fitness goals? Is it really bad for you?
In short, the answer is: Yes. Skipping meals isn’t good for your health – and regularly skipping meals will have a negative impact on your fitness goals.
There are a few factors at play here, not the least of which was demonstrated in a recent study by researchers at Cornell University. They asked students to fast for 18 hours, and then treated them to a buffet including a variety of foods. According to researchers, french fries and dinner rolls were the most popular items. Vegetables were last on the list.
If your body is starving, then it makes sense that it would crave calorie-dense foods. It wants to survive, and it doesn’t know where your next meal is coming from. Your brain is telling you to stock up while you can – and so vegetables, which are not calorie dense, don’t offer much of an immediate survival advantage.
In other words, skipping meals may make it harder to choose healthy foods. That’s not good news for people that use fasting as means for long-term weight loss.
Moreover, skipping meals or dramatically restricting calories will push your body into starvation mode. When this happens, your metabolism will slow down to a crawl so that your body can burn as few calories as possible. When you finally start eating again, your slower metabolism will mean fewer of those calories will be burned off – and weight gain is likely.
For individuals interested in building muscle mass, it’s important to provide your body with a constant source of fuel. Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts even consume protein before bed so that their muscles will have the fuel they need during an 8-hour sleep. Skipping meals regularly can have starve your muscles of the fuel they need and limit or undermine your results.
The bottom line: Skipping meals every now and then won’t have a huge impact – but it’s certainly something to avoid on a regular basis.