Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Mar

Why Skipping Meals and Workouts is Healthy

Conventional wisdom tells us that “grazing” is the optimal way to eat. Constant snacking; more frequent, smaller meals rather than the classic breakfast, lunch, dinner set-up; and an ever-present fear of hunger as the enemy: these are said to line the path to healthy weight loss. If we ever feel hungry, it says, we leave ourselves vulnerable to temptation and metabolic imbalances. There is certainly some validity to this idea. I can imagine Grok roaming the grasslands for nuts, bugs, roots, shoots, and small game. And at times these foods may have been plentiful. More likely though Grok’s eating pattern was much more sporadic. There would have been periods of grazing coupled with stretches of famine and punctuated by instances of all-out feasting. As is so often the case, CW has cherry picked one part of this scenario and turned it into an ironclad, dogmatic proclamation that excludes any alternatives, whatever their potential benefits.

It has become sacrilege to skip a meal. Skipping meals, they say, only slows the metabolism, promotes fat storage, and makes us more likely to gorge on unhealthy foods once we do decide to eat.

The same goes for workouts. Missing a workout – especially in conjunction with a skipped meal – can make a fitness buff feel like a lazy slob. Missing two, or even three? A crisis of monumental proportions! A cascade of guilt and regret!

What are we to do?

Armed with a fresh perspective you can reframe your actions and toss fear and guilt out the window.

Say you aren’t hungry – should you feel compelled to force something down? Or maybe you only have access to a snack machine – should you eat a bag of chips just for the sake of eating?

Or maybe you’re sore from the previous workout session and it’s cold and the gym is a long drive through traffic – should you torture yourself and force the workout?

Sometimes, you should just say no. You’re not gonna starve if you go eight hours without eating. Your body isn’t going to immediately start burning muscle for energy if you don’t get something, anything, into your system (especially junk food). Your muscles won’t deflate if you miss a workout. The gym won’t close, and your weights aren’t going to rust over into obsolescence. You have to say no and be okay with saying it – no guilt involved.

The fact of the matter is that there are real benefits to both. I’m a big proponent of intermittent fasting as a way to promote health and longevity, maintain weight, and build lean muscle. We’ve got the studies that seem to back it up, plus my own success with it, but you can also look at it from Grok’s perspective. Our ancestors didn’t always have ample food. Sure, he undoubtedly preferred to constantly graze, but there were no guarantees. You think Grok felt guilty about missing a meal? No way. Maybe a little peeved, but not guilty. It just made the next meal all the more delicious.

Similarly, Grok wasn’t constantly working. He had plenty of time to relax and rest his muscles. Even (especially) top lifters stress the importance of rest in developing lean mass; if you overwork or overtrain, you’re only doing your muscles a disservice.

So what did I mean by reframing your actions?

With a slight change in perspective and a little “presto chango”!

The “my metabolism is going to shut down” Skipped Meal becomes an experiment in Intermittent Fasting


the “I’m a lazy slob” Skipped Workout becomes a “time to give my muscles a chance to rebuild” Recovery Day

In other words:

Skipped Meal = Intermittent Fasting

Skipped Workout = Recovery Day

Luckily, this isn’t just wordplay, and isn’t simply an attempt to see the glass half full. It also isn’t permission to completely slack off. You still need to eat plenty of healthy fat and protein (with a few carbs sprinkled in, if you please), and regular exercise is an important part of staying healthy. But missing a few meals every now and then won’t kill you and it can even be a boon. Nor will taking a couple extra rest days set your fitness goals back by any considerable amount (it might even give you the rest and resolve needed to assail your workouts with renewed vigor). So next time you’re faced with a non-Primal meal you’d rather avoid, or you just can’t muster the energy to drag yourself to the gym for the fifth day in a row don’t beat yourself up for slacking off. Pat yourself on the back for making a perfectly Primal decision and get on with your life.

Further Reading:

Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau

It’s Time to “Get Real”

How To: Intermittent Fasting

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I love IF. I think that the Romans had a point when they said that you should eat when your body has time to digest – I hate having lunch and then having to run somewhere or work with a brick in my stomach. Ok, not a brick, but you get the drift. When I IF, I get all my work done eficiently in the first part of the day, and then have a delicious dinner (with, perhaps, a chocolate-bacon-coconut bar for dessert) and unwind. So most of the time I either to a full dinner-to-dinner IF, or just breakfast and dinner (I like breakfast. Eggs, eggs, eggs!) with either nothing or just light grazing. I rarely have three ‘squares’ a day. I just hate working on a full stomach. Besides, I’m at university with a canteen that says “base your meals on starches. They are vital” on its wall. Though they do quite good roast salmon.

    Milla wrote on November 8th, 2011
  2. This is great. I had great success with my 21 day start into Primal living. I was down 12 pounds, but I was still using CW weight training and hit a plateau. I stop losing weight and my strength gains had been stalled for over a month. And then I start IF and and HIT regime. Two weeks later and 5 pounds of total body weight lose, with increase in muscle strength and size. IF and working out less frequently has made a big difference.

    Jeffrey wrote on April 17th, 2012

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!