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Insulin oscillations with period of 3 - 6 minutes are believed to be important for insulin sensitivity by preventing downregulation of insulin receptors.

Reading this I was wondering, if the body is using oscillations on small time scale to prevent downregulation, maybe this tells us also something about how to organize our diet on bigger time scale, too.

So I was thinking that maybe eating regularly always the same amounts of food is unnatural to our body and ultimately leads to downregulation of our metabolism. I think it could make sense, because in ancient times people couldn't eat regularly. Instead they had days when they had a whole mammut as food source and a lot of other days in a week where they had only a few berries.

So our bodies might be better adapted to cyclic eating, e.g. eating every second day 3000 kcal instead of eating 1500 kcal every day.

Are there any studies out there that could support such a line of thinking? Should we better try to eat our food or even supplements/drugs in huge amounts on a single day and then wait for one or several days until we get the next portion to prevent our body from downregulating important receptors and decreasing the metabolism?

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Off topic according to the FAQ since the scope change of the site excluded questions not related to exercise. –  Baarn Sep 13 '12 at 16:07
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2 Answers 2

There are some proponents of this type of thinking such as the Warrior Diet and intermittent fasting (Eat Stop Eat). The premise is essentially the same as what you outlined, and many people have had success with this approach.

Now, the dangerous thought process is to lump everyone into the same Calorie requirements. A weightlifter will need many more Calories than someone who is comparatively sedentary. Your 3000 kcal every other day number would send me into starvation mode--and that's before I started an exercise regimen. My BMR back in April was about 2000 kcal/day and is currently much more than that (estimated at around 2400 kcal/day or more).

In short, your activity level and amount of lean mass can have a greater affect on metabolism than the timing of eating your food.

That said, there are also a number of people who do well with several small meals throughout the day. In some ways that's the only way to get their Calorie requirements in for their level of activity and their Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but a number of principles we can use to make educated adjustments to our diet. You've outlined one such principle.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Finally I found one study about the effects of cyclic eating:

Stote et al. (2007) : A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults

Quotations from the paper:

  • Design:The study was a randomized crossover design with two 8-wk treatment periods. During the treatment periods, subjects consumed all of the calories needed for weight maintenance in either 3 meals/d or 1 meal/d.

  • Results: Subjects who completed the study maintained their body weight within 2 kg of their initial weight throughout the 6-mo period. There were no significant effects of meal frequency on heart rate, body temperature, or most of the blood variables measured. However, when consuming 1 meal/d, subjects had a significant increase in hunger; a significant modification of body composition, including reductions in fat mass; significant increases in blood pressure and in total, LDL-, and HDL-cholesterol concentrations; and a significant decrease in concentrations of cortisol.

  • Subjects' weight and body fat mass were lowered (1.4 and 2.1 kg, respectively) after consumption of the 1 meal/d diet but not after consumption of the 3 meals/d diet.

  • Despite a general perception among the public at large that it is important to eat ≥3 meals/d, no controlled studies have directly compared the effects of different meal frequencies on human health. This knowledge gap has been identified by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report as a future research direction.

So the effect of different meal frequencies on the human body is still an open question in science, but there seems to be some evidence that lower frequencies could reduce body fat and weight.

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In addition the wikipedia page on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_fasting gives some additional information. Interesting (for german speakers) is also the 10in2 diet (10in2.at) proposed by an austrian guy. –  asmaier Oct 16 '11 at 11:15
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