Eat When You Want
You've heard that you need five or six meals a day for fat loss. The simple rationale is this: Digestion requires energy, so spreading your calories over many small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism humming and your hunger at bay. The problem? It's not how frequently you eat but rather what you eat that affects how many calories you burn at mealtime. So if you take in 2,000 a day, it doesn't matter how many meals you've eaten; your calorie burn from digestion remains the same.
Take a week and write down when you feel most hungry. Then adjust your eating patterns accordingly. The key is to pack each meal with foods that provide the greatest metabolic boost. (For suggestions, stock up on these 125 Best Foods for Men
More: Eat to Build Lean Muscles
Load Up on Protein
Every time you eat a meal that doesn't include protein, you're telling your body you don't want to burn more calories. Here's why: Protein helps control your blood sugar, keeps you fuller, reduces hunger, and burns more calories during digestion. So you can stay lean and still enjoy your favorite foods. Also, the protein stops muscle breakdown and provides the raw materials for laying down new muscle.
Carbohydrates are not evil. But when you eat them alone, they set off a series of events—including a rise of insulin—that cause you to crave more food and store more fat. So whether you're snacking or eating a meal, include some protein and you'll drop fat. For meals, a 6-ounce portion of fish, chicken, or lean beef is reasonable. For snacks, try a handful of nuts, a stick of string cheese, or Greek yogurt.
More: Get Lean With Protein
While the number of meals you consume doesn't matter, the size of your snacks does. Since the 1970s, the average snack size has increased from 360 to 580 calories, according to research from the University of North Carolina. When you consider that the average man snacks twice during a workday, you're looking at almost 500 additional calories every 24 hours because of the increased snack size. Over the course of a week, that can contribute to an extra pound of fat.
Quick Fix: Use one hand to defeat your cravings. (Mind out of the gutter, fellas.) If a portion does not fit into your hand—whether it's almonds, a chicken breast, cheese, or fruit—then the portion is probably too large. If it's packaged, read the label. You want 200 to 300 calories in each serving, with 15 to 20 grams of protein and about the same amount of carbs—what you might find in a cup of Greek yogurt and some dried cherries.
More: Healthy Snack: Baked Kale Chips
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