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International Society of Sports Nutrition position
stand: meal frequency
Paul M La Bounty1*, Bill I Campbell2, Jacob Wilson3, Elfego Galvan4, John Berardi5, Susan M Kleiner6,
Richard B Kreider7, Jeffrey R Stout8, Tim Ziegenfuss9, Marie Spano10, Abbie Smith8, Jose Antonio11
Position Statement: Admittedly, research to date examining the physiological effects of meal frequency in humans
is somewhat limited. More specifically, data that has specifically examined the impact of meal frequency on body
composition, training adaptations, and performance in physically active individuals and athletes is scant. Until more
research is available in the physically active and athletic populations, definitive conclusions cannot be made.
However, within the confines of the current scientific literature, we assert that:
1. Increasing meal frequency does not appear to favorably change body composition in sedentary populations.
2. If protein levels are adequate, increasing meal frequency during periods of hypoenergetic dieting may preserve
lean body mass in athletic populations.
3. Increased meal frequency appears to have a positive effect on various blood markers of health, particularly LDL
cholesterol, total cholesterol, and insulin.
4. Increased meal frequency does not appear to significantly enhance diet induced thermogenesis, total energy
expenditure or resting metabolic rate.
5. Increasing meal frequency appears to help decrease hunger and improve appetite control.
The following literature review has been prepared by the authors in support of the aforementioned position
Among adults 20 years or older, living in the United
States, 65.1% are classified as overweight or obese .
Furthermore, there is no indication that this trend is
improving . Excess body fat has potential physical
and psychological health implications as well as potential
negative influences on sport performance as well.
The various dietary aspects that are associated with
overeating and obesity are not well understood . One
debated area that is often purported to play a role in
body weight/composition changes is meal frequency.
The amount and type of calories consumed, along with
the frequency of eating, is greatly affected by sociological
and cultural factors . Recent evidence suggests
that the frequency in which one eats may also be, at
least in part, genetically influenced . Infants have a
natural desire to eat small meals (i.e., nibble) throughout
the day . However, as soon as a child reaches a certain
age he/she is trained to consume meals in a generally
predictable manner . In the modernized world,
meal frequency is affected by cultural/social norms as
well as an individual’s personal beliefs about his/her
health or body composition. According to a study utilizing
data from the 1987-1988 Nationwide Food Consumption
Survey (NFCS), the average daily meal
frequency for the 3,182 American adults that completed
the study was 3.47 . If meals that consisted of less
than or equal to 70 kcals, (primarily consisting of tea,
coffee, or diet beverages) were excluded from the analysis,
the number decreased to 3.12 meals per day. These
habits closely mirror the traditional three meals per day
pattern (i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner) that is common
throughout the industrialized world. Although it is
often suggested that “nibblers” or “grazers” (i.e., defined
in much of the pertinent literature as those that eat
smaller meals, but more frequently throughout the day)
may be at a metabolic advantage as compared to the
“gorgers” (i.e., those that eat fewer, but larger meals),
* Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
1Dept. of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, Baylor University,
Waco, TX, USA
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
La Bounty et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2011, 8:4
© 2011 La Bounty et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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