The truth about meal frequency and its effect on metabolism.
Fact or fiction: Will eating frequent small meals throughout the day keep your metabolism humming? Sorry folks, that’s actually a myth (along with these metabolism misconceptions). Eating frequent mini meals throughout the day may keep you from getting too hungry (and noshing on unhealthy eats later), but there’s little scientific evidence on how small meals actually boost your metabolism.
While it’s true that your body burns calories during digestion and the absorption of nutrients—this is called the thermic effect of food, which on average burns about 10% of your daily calories—it expends energy based on the total calories consumed, not how often you’re eating. So whether you eat two 1,000-calorie meals or five 400-calorie meals (both equaling 2,000 calories per day), you’re still burning about 10% of your total calories to digest that food, which in this case, is 200 calories.
So should you stick to the good ol’ fashioned three meals a day? “The medical literature is mixed here. The answer probably depends more on your personal preference and what works for your lifestyle,” says Sharon Richter, RD, a registered dietitian based in New York City.
If you’re a natural grazer and do better when you don’t let yourself get too hungry, then go ahead and eat smaller meals more often. “Just make sure you choose a balance between mini meals that offer a mix of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and either a fruit or vegetable,” says Richter.
If your body craves more at mealtimes and you can go longer without eating, then do that. “If you’re more of a standard meal eater, try to plan ahead so you know what you’re going to be eating throughout the day, and you don’t wind up making a poor choice simply because you’re starving and you have no good food options,” says Richter.
Whatever your pleasure, just make sure you’re paying attention to hunger cues and calorie intake—and only eating when your body needs it.
Sharon Richter is a registered dietitian with a private nutrition practice in New York City.
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:02,811
00:00:02,811 --> 00:00:05,050
Are three big meals better
than several small meals?
00:00:05,050 --> 00:00:09,091
00:00:09,091 --> 00:00:12,112
The truth is,
the medical literature is mixed here.
00:00:12,112 --> 00:00:15,598
And the answer probably depends more
on your personal preference and
00:00:15,598 --> 00:00:17,232
what works for your lifestyle.
00:00:17,232 --> 00:00:21,188
Some studies show that eating small
frequent meals throughout the day helps
00:00:21,188 --> 00:00:22,620
00:00:22,620 --> 00:00:27,010
And may help you eat less overall
than sticking with three large meals.
00:00:27,010 --> 00:00:30,490
The thinking has been that if
you go too long between meals,
00:00:30,490 --> 00:00:34,770
you'll wind up hungry and
binge more at a later meal.
00:00:34,770 --> 00:00:37,360
But other research shows
that eating more frequently
00:00:37,360 --> 00:00:41,960
doesn't boost your metabolism rate or
have an impact on weight loss.
00:00:41,960 --> 00:00:45,240
One issue is how many calories
are you consuming when you eat,
00:00:45,240 --> 00:00:47,400
whether it's a meal or a mini meal.
00:00:47,400 --> 00:00:51,180
Because we tend to eat bigger portions
than we should, people who eat mini meals
00:00:51,180 --> 00:00:55,440
might wind up eating more food than
is optimal for their age, size, etc.
00:00:55,440 --> 00:00:59,492
You're probably better off sticking
with what feels most natural to you.
00:00:59,492 --> 00:01:03,280
If you're a natural grazer and do better
when you don't let yourself get too
00:01:03,280 --> 00:01:06,540
hungry between periods of eating,
go for it.
00:01:06,540 --> 00:01:10,910
Just make sure you choose a balance
between mini meals that offer mix of fat,
00:01:10,910 --> 00:01:14,740
protein and carbohydrates and
either a fruit or vegetable.
00:01:14,740 --> 00:01:18,400
If you are more of a standard meal eater,
try to plan ahead so you know you
00:01:18,400 --> 00:01:22,487
are gonna be eating throughout the day and
you don't wind up making a poor choice
00:01:22,487 --> 00:01:26,092
simply because you're starving,
and you have no good food options.
00:01:26,092 --> 00:01:30,592
Can you boost your metabolism? U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus, 2016. (Accessed on January 23, 2018 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000893.htm)
Effects of Meal Frequency on Metabolic Profiles and Substrate Partitioning in Lean Healthy Males. Maastricht, The Netherlands: Maastricht University Medical Center, 2012. (Accessed on January 23, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3374835)
Diet induced thermogenesis. Maastricht, The Netherlands: Maastricht University, 2004. (Accessed on January 23, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC524030)
Meal frequency and energy balance. Hotel Dieu de Paris, France, 1997. (Accessed on January 23, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9155494)