Meal Frequency and the big hoax


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If like me, you've been around the fitness crowd for a while, you've probably heard the claim about eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day helps boost your metabolism. It seemed to make sense on the surface however, when I first heard the analogy of your metabolism being like a furnace and keeping it stoked with regular feedings didn't sit well with me. The reason may be because I'm quite an anal person when it comes to detail and quite literal and thought it didn't really matter providing you gave your body the right amount of calories, the fire would still burn bright.

Well, I have finally come to learn that this was actually a myth most likely perpetuated by the supplement industry to get us to eat and drink more of their convenience foods such as protein bars, meal replacement shakes and ready to drink shakes.

Now, I'm one to go straight to the science when I hear claims so I spent most of last Friday reading research material online about meal frequency and its effect on the metabolism. To my dismay, I was unable to find one article that suggested that an increase in meal frequency had a significant effect in raising ones metabolic rate! There I was, not only thinking that your metabolic rate was effected by meal frequency but also telling and recommending this sham to other people.

All of the reports I read seemed to suggest that meal frequency had little to no effect on ones metabolic rate.

So where does that leave eating smaller meals more frequently?

Although there is pretty much zero evidence to suggest that meal frequency has any effect on metabolism other than once you've reached starvation, there are benefits. According to a report by the journal of international sports nutrition, whilst there was no effect to metabolism by increasing meal frequency, blood sugar levels and insulin levels seemed better regulated as did cholesterol levels. Athletes would also benefit from the muscle sparing effect of smaller and more frequent meals and it showed that it assisted in appetite control. From that point of view, there is still a case for smaller and more frequent meals as with the fact that people who participate in sport or intense physical activity who have greater calorie requirements would find it easier to consume their calories in frequent meals as opposed to a few smaller ones.

There is of course a case for the contrary too. Some studies have shown a benefit to intermittent fasting. Although I have experimented myself with one such diet known as "The warrior diet" in which proponent Ori Hofmekler claims that eating one meal a day is best, there is more anecdotal evidence to suggest that from a fitness point of view, smaller more frequent meals are better. I for one feel that I have more energy throughout the day eating more frequently and feel in better shape than when I have not eaten frequent, smaller meals.

So there you have it, Meal frequency does little if nothing to your metabolism, another supplement industry perpetuated myth that was born most likely in a marketing meeting rather than a science lab.

Until next time

Fahad

Sources

Beneficial metabolic effects of regular meal frequency on dietary thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity, and fasting lipid profiles in healthy obese women – American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition

Impact of Reduced Meal Frequency Without Caloric Restriction on Glucose Regulation in Healthy, Normal Weight Middle-Aged Men and Women – National Institute of heallth

International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency – JISSN

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About the Author Fahad

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