Myth: Eating more frequently will increase your metabolism
Have you heard the statement- eat 5-6 small meals per day?
I'm pretty sure we have all heard that at some point. Eat every 2-3 hours, eat more frequently, and keep your metabolism going.
But... Does it still hold true? That statement has been around so long, but does science back it up?
We need to know this, because if it is healthier to eat 8-10 meals a day.... Heck! I'll make that sacrifice and end every meal with an Oreo! If I must...
In all seriousness though, how many meals should we eat per day?
Should we really be eating more frequently? That is the question I am going to answer today.
It all started with the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) theory. TEF is the increase in metabolic rate (energy expended for food processing) after ingestion of a meal. It is estimated to be around 10% of calories consumed. It was believed that the more frequent we ate, the more calories we would burn because we wouldn't allow our bodies to go into starvation mode.
But wait, then why does it matter at what time you ate those calories? It doesn't. Because at the end of the day, it's the same total calories consumed in one day, no matter how many meals you split that into.
For example: You eat 2000 calories spread out over 6 meals in one day. Or you eat 2000 calories spread out over 3 meals in one day. Regardless, you consumed 2000 calories and therefore it will create the same thermic effect of about 200 calories (10%) burned.
Conclusion: Meal frequency is not crucial. Calories consumed is what matters!
Myth: Eat 5 small meals a day. Eat 6 small meals a day.
Many studies have come to the conclusion that there is no weight loss benefit for higher frequency meals. But what about its effects on muscle?
Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is the building up of muscle within a cell for muscle growth. Dr Layne Norton recommends consuming adequate protein 4-6x/day every 4-5 hours for optimal muscle growth. Any longer and MPS drops (i.e. Intermittent fasting). Whereas more frequent than every 5 hours does not appear to show any beneficial changes.
Since study results aren't crystal clear, you've still gotta find what works for you. Even though there is no specific number of meals you should be eating each day, you can still have a goal that fits your lifestyle best. For someone who doesn't get a lunch break and works long hours, 2-3 meals per day may work better. Whereas someone who is very active and has a physically demanding job, they may feel better with 5-6 meals per day. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Coaches who write meal plans that restrict you to 5 meals of 4oz chicken, 50g brown rice, and 100g asparagus are uninformed. They are giving you a cookie cutter plan without sustainability in mind. You won't stick to it and you will not see optimal results in your physique.
That's the beauty of flexible dieting. No matter how many meals, just stick to your daily macronutrients count and you are golden. Flexible dieting doesn't box you in and force you to eat certain foods at certain times like many nutrition plans do. Instead, you adjust macro calculations based on your body, your goals, and your lifestyle. For more information on flexible dieting, take our free 4 week course at: www.LearnFlexibleDieting.com and click the box below to get our free Back to the Basics ebook. It will teach you how to make happy and healthy a habit (bye bye short term fixes).
-Research does not support the belief that eating more frequently helps rev up the metabolism
-It is best to experiment with meal frequencies and choose what works best for your lifestyle
-Always be sure to consume enough protein throughout the day to maintain muscle growth