Do I Need to Eat Six Times a Day to Keep My Metabolism High?
When it comes to weight loss, the hot topic is always metabolism. You have to ramp up your metabolism to burn more fat and reach your weight loss goal. One of the commonly used methods for improving metabolic rate is through increased meal frequency, but does this work?
While it may seem plausible, the research suggests that there is no benefit to increasing meal frequency in terms of metabolic rate. A meta-analysis (compiles all available relevant evidence) found that studies looking at eating frequently versus a couple of big meals a day found no increase of calories burned over a 24 hour period. In fact, one study that looked at three meals versus 14 meals in a 36-hour eating window found that the group consuming three meals a day had a minor increase in energy expenditure.
What About Muscle?
Not everyone looking at meal frequency is concerned with weight loss. It is also common for those trying to increase body weight to increase their number of meals each day, but the research here also suggests that it is total calories and not meal frequency that plays the biggest role.
You may find it interesting that the research points to periods of food restriction as being the best way of increasing metabolic rate. Fasting, or the periodic restriction of dietary substance, can provide an array of therapeutic benefits. The research also demonstrates that fasting can lead to increased metabolic rate and thermogenesis. When fasting, your body can transition to using stored fat for energy, which likely does not happen under conditions of high meal frequency.
Despite this being a common belief, the research does not support eating more meals a day leading to greater metabolic rate. The majority of the studies show no differences in energy expenditure and thermogenesis between higher and lower meal frequency, but it is worth noting that it may be due to the acute nature of these studies. Having a high meal frequency chronically could potentially lead to the development of insulin resistance which would be extremely counter-intuitive to improving metabolism. For this reason, fasting may be a better way to keep your metabolism high!