Imagine you’re on a diet, and you have an upcoming banquet or holiday party with a sumptuous dinner and an open bar full of tempting snacks. You anticipate indulging in a festive atmosphere, but you’re unsure if there will be any healthy food options. Should you cut back on your food intake earlier in the day to make room for the feast? This practice is often referred to as “banking calories,” where you save calories to consume more later. While it’s a common strategy among dieters, if you’re serious about your diet and fitness goals, the answer is generally no – you should not “bank calories.” Here’s why and what you should do instead:
Firstly, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll acknowledge that there are usually healthy food options at most gatherings. Amidst the chips, dips, pretzels, cookies, and other indulgent snacks, you can often find trays of carrot sticks, cauliflower, fruit, turkey breast, and other nutritious options. You always have choices; aim to make the best choice possible based on what’s available. Even if you decide to enjoy some “party foods,” consider having a smaller portion rather than overindulging.
When you skip meals or reduce your food intake earlier in the day to save calories for an evening feast, you’re focusing solely on calorie intake. However, you’re depriving your body of essential nutrition, including protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that come from balanced meals. Additionally, you’re missing the opportunity to maintain a steady metabolism through regular, small meals.
Eating less during the day in anticipation of overeating later can lead to increased appetite, potentially causing you to binge or consume more than intended when the banquet finally arrives. In contrast, consuming healthy foods earlier in the day can help you feel full and reduce the likelihood of overindulgence in the evening. Foods high in fiber, healthy fats, and lean protein tend to be particularly satiating.
The concept of “banking calories” doesn’t align with how your body naturally operates. Your body seeks equilibrium and tends to adjust your appetite to balance your calorie intake over time. Even if this strategy were effective, it doesn’t make sense to starve yourself to burn fat, only to overeat and regain the fat later. Why subject yourself to unnecessary fat gain in the first place?
A pattern of starving and bingeing can have more negative consequences than occasionally enjoying a larger meal. Some dieticians might even classify this behavior as disordered eating. A healthier approach is to stick with your regular meal plan and portion sizes throughout the day, even on special occasions. Then, when you do indulge, practice moderation with smaller portions.
It’s reassuring to know that on special occasions, such as parties, restaurant meals, banquets, or holiday dinners, you can enjoy your favorite foods with minimal impact on your body composition, as long as you respect the principles of calorie balance. However, you cannot expect to starve and binge without negative consequences. To achieve fat loss and maintain good health, you don’t have to be overly restrictive, but you should have the discipline to adhere to your regular meal plan most of the time and practice portion control consistently.