Making Meals Ahead of Time Can Help You Lose Weight

Recent nutrition research has been exploring our motivations for eating, not just what we eat. It seems that measuring and packing our food ahead of time can help prevent overeating.

Losing weight can be tough for anyone except the most motivated athlete. Whether your goal is to trim up for health, or to get leaner for your sport, we have a biological imperative to gain weight rather than lose it. In times past, our motivation to eat in a natural setting needed to be strong enough to get us up in the morning, trek for miles, and potentially risk our lives just to catch a meal. In our modern world, getting a meal is a lot easier. From an evolutionary perspective humans haven’t had enough time for our motivation to eat to adjust to match the ease of obtaining food. So, many people overeat as a result.

For many sports and activities a low body fat percentage can be a big benefit. For weight-classed sports like MMA, wrestling, powerlifting, and even strongman competitions, going down a weight class could offer a strategic advantage. In some other sports that aren’t classed by weight, excess bodyweight is still a limiting factor to performance – for example, cross-country, marathon running, and to a lesser extent, cycling. For all these athletes, maximizing muscle and reducing fat while losing weight is an important goal.

Much recent research on weight loss has focused on studying motivations to eat rather than nutrition itself. A bad diet will set you back, but eating too much of anything, even healthy foods, can prevent you from achieving the weight or body fat percentage that you are looking for. How can we adjust our desire to constantly seek out food to a healthy level that supports our goals? A recent study in the Nutrition Journal sought to answer just that question.

The focus for this study was comparing liquid meals to solid meals. While the study used fasting and calorie restriction as methods for weight loss, they hoped to find a difference between liquid meals and solid meals while maintaining a similar calorie deficit. The liquid meal group consumed two of their meals each day as a prepackaged liquid meal replacement. Both groups were instructed to keep a restricted calorie number for each meal. Over 8 weeks the liquid meal group lost a little over 3 lbs. more on average than the solid meal group.

Should we all start eating liquid meals instead of solid to lose weight? That’s probably not necessary. The most likely reason for the difference in the two groups is that the liquid meal group had their meals premeasured. It’s not likely there was anything particularly special about the solidity of the food itself, but rather the adherence to the dietary recommendations. Choosing how much you eat in each and every meal will likely lead to overeating. What this means for those of us who like a nice hot and solid meal is that preparing and measuring your meals ahead of time will probably give you the same results. And then you can still eat real food.

If losing weight and getting leaner is a goal of yours, try making your meals for the week over the weekend, and pack them for each day. When that’s not an option, be wary of your tendency to eat too much without a pre-set meal, and cut yourself off early.


1. Monica Klempel, et. al., Intermittent fasting combined with calorie restriction is effective for weight loss and cardio-protection in obese women, Nutrition Journal, 11:98 (2012)

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