You can get lean & strong with any meal frequency with snacks or no snacks. That’s the truth.
Eating is also highly individual.
But there is very compelling evidence from scientific research, my own observation, and customer results that significantly reducing – or eliminating – snacks is a game changer for weight management & leanness for most guys.
The multibillion dollar snack industry is formidable and cultural behaviors and beliefs around snacking are strong. Snacks are not inherently wrong or evil, you just don’t need them. Our parents didn’t have them around like we do now and they didn’t have an obesity epidemic.
For the past couple of years, we have recommended to significantly reduce or eliminate snacks to men completing our BuiltLean Transformation Program. The results have been stellar.
I had tons of snacks growing up and a mid-morning & mid-afternoon snack for most of my adult life. I realized that most of the time I was just eating highly processed, nutritionally anemic foods like protein bars. For the last few years, I rarely eat snacks. My diet quality has improved and gaining excess weight is almost out of the question.
What Is The Challenge?
Eat 3 or fewer meals a day with 0 snacks for 7-days. A snack is any food you eat between meals. Caloric beverages count as a snack.1
Why Should I Do It?
1. Reduce Or Eliminate Compulsive Snacking
Snacking is mostly mindless, compulsive, and habitual and may go in lockstep with checking social media and your phone constantly. Dissolving compulsions equates to improved mental clarity and performance. In my Go-To Meals article, I described how many of us are operating like a computer with 50 windows open at the same time, which is a lot slower than normal. Our brains crave focus with no distractions, which is how you get into “The Zone”. Eating snacks is oftentimes a distraction. You will also have fewer food decisions to make in a given day or week.
2. Reduce Calorie Consumption
There are only 3 variables you can change with your eating: (1) what you eat, (2) when you eat, and (3) how much you eat. Every diet known to man derives from these three variables. Simply eliminating all snacks (variable #2) can improve the quality of the food you eat (variable #1), and reduce the amount of food you eat (variable #3). Compelling evidence suggests snacking is a driving force behind the obesity epidemic.2 This is one of the most extraordinary findings of my career as a health & fitness professional.
3. Drop Excess Weight
Eliminating snacks can have a significant impact on your ability to manage your weight and overall leanness. For some guys, no snacks can be the difference between being overweight or lean. Of course, eliminating snacks from your diet is not a panacea as I’ve had more than a few conversations with obese men who eat 2 or 3 meals a day with no snacks. But for many who do snack a lot, it’s a complete game changer when combined with other healthful changes.
How Do I Make This Challenge More Manageable?
1. Cleanse Your Cupboards & Pantry
In a perfect world, you would have 0 processed snacks in your household. That would make avoiding snacks much easier. That may not be an option right now with your partner, and your children may throw a few tantrums. Amazingly, children for millennia lived just fine without processed snacks. If 0 processed snacks is infeasible for now, the first step is to get all snacks out of sight and ideally, hard to reach. The second step is to remove as many processed snacks as you can. Out of sight, out of mind is powerful.
2. Keep A Photo Food Journal If You Struggle With Mindless Snacking
If you struggle with mindless snacking and it’s hard to even contemplate passing this challenge, consider keeping a photo food journal. You simply take a photo of everything you eat. This is a pattern interrupt, which can help stop the mindless snacking in its tracks. For more information, check out this article on How To Keep A Photo Food Journal.
3. Drink Plenty of Water (60+ Ounces)
Drinking at least 60 ounces of water will have a huge impact on your hunger levels and overall eating habits. Feeling like you need a snack? Drink water. Slow down your breathing (consider box breathing 5-seconds in, 5-second hold, 5-second out, 5-second hold) Relax. Most snacking is mindless and habitual, and is from the tongue. Sometimes the desire is from stomach hunger. Hunger is ok. It’s not that big of a deal. You can wait a couple hours before you have your next meal. It’s empowering and liberating when you realize you really don’t have to have that snack. Keep in mind if you normally have a snack at a certain hour, you are habituated to getting hungry at that hour.
When Do I Start?
You can start whenever you like, but we recommend starting at the beginning of the week. For most, that will be on Monday. Why not start this Monday? Sooner rather than later, better late than never.
Where Do I Track My Results?
We created a PDF that you can print out and keep in a visible place like your refrigerator or nightstand. You just mark off an “X” for each day with no snacks. You can certainly use any method that works well for you.
You can share your results, how you are doing, and lessons learned in the comment section below. We plan to keep the comments open for the foreseeable future. You can also leave comments under the No Snacks Challenge Youtube Video, Facebook post, or Twitter post with hashtags #builtlean and #nosnackschallenge. Whatever works best for you.
- Is soup a food or a beverage? What about fruit juice? Is fruit juice a food that you drink? What constitutes a food or a beverage can quickly go down a rabbit hole of pedantry. For the purposes of this challenge, a caloric beverage is a food because it’s serving the same purpose as a snack and provides calories. ↩
- According to an analysis of USDA food consumption data by David Cutler at Harvard University, 90 percent of the increase in calorie consumption in men in the United States from 1977 to 1996 has come from between-meal eating. For women, it’s 112 percent. Calories from meals have actually gone down. (Cutler DM, Glaeser EL, Shapiro JM. Why have americans become more obese? Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2003;17(3):93-118)
The No S Diet Book (affiliate link) by Reinhard Engles & Ben Kallen shares excellent research about the history and science of snacking.
“In America we now get 26 percent of our total calories from snacks— twice the amount as in 1976—and our obesity rate is now over 30 percent. The French get only 8 percent of their calories from snacks, and their obesity rate is correspondingly lower at 11 percent. The Chinese get less than 1 percent of their calories from snacks, and their obesity rate is a mere 3 percent.” Cited research – Adair LS, Popkin BM. Are child eating patterns being transformed globally? Obes Res. 2005;13(7):1281-1299. ↩