A big argument for eating 6 meals per day, is that the 6 small meals supposedly increases the metabolic rate. It is also argued that if you skip meals, you metabolism will shut down and your body will hoard fat. Well the British Journal of Nutrition has cited a study which proves this theory wrong.
(I LOVE Thai food more than anything! Well…almost anything!)
This journal pulled together the results of several studies, which took two groups eating the same amount of calories. One group ate 3 meals and the other group ate 6 meals. What they found was that your metabolic increase was based on daily calories and had nothing to do with meal frequency.
What Other Nutritionists Say About Eating Several Small Meals
Lyle McDonald had this to say in summarizing meal frequency:
“TEF (Thermogenic Effect of Food) differs for the different nutrients, on average it constitutes about 10% of a typical mixed diet. So every time you eat, your metabolic rate goes up a little bit due to TEF. Aha! Eat more and metabolic rate goes up more, right? Except, let’s think about that….Say we have two people, both eating 3000 calories per day. One eats 6 meals of 500 calories/meal while the other eats 3 meals of 1000 calories/meal. The first will have a TEF of 50 calories (10% of 500) 6 times/day. The second will have a TEF of 100 calories (10% of 1000 calories) 3 times/day. Well, 6X50 = 300 calories/day and 3X100 = 300 calories/day. No difference. Sure, if you increase food intake from, say, 1500 calories to 2000 calories, you will burn more with TEF; but this has nothing to do with meal frequency, it has to do with eating more food.
So Your Metabolic Rate Will Not Increase By Eating Frequently
This just shatters the long-held belief that eating every few hours keeps your metabolism high. If eating 6 meals per day seems natural then by all means eat 6 times a day, but if eating just once or twice a day feels more natural…that is fine as well. I like eating just one major meal per day along with a couple of small snacks. The main thing is to eat fewer calories than what you burn if you want to lose weight. Don’t make it more difficult than that.
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