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Eating More Often Does NOT Speed Up Your Metabolism!


Posted on May 11th, 2012 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

Eating more often, say 6 meals instead of 3, does NOT increase how many calories your body will burn in a day. Therefore you will NOT lose more weight by eating more often! If you eat 1,500 calories a day, it does NOT matter, when it comes to losing weight, if you eat frequently, say 5 or 6 times a day, or infrequently, say 2 or 3 times a day. It just does NOT matter! I really can’t make this any clearer.

I really can’t believe I feel the need to bring this subject up as I thought this long-time myth had finally been eradicated. But, some recent comments by clients, family members, and some exercise and nutrition “experts” have clearly demonstrated that this stupid-ass myth is still prevalent.

I give a pass to my clients as they are not suppose to be experts on the subject and their view of the subject usually originated from some expert they worked with or read. However, it is the “experts” who give out this information that need to be held accountable. They should know better, and deserve a nice slap to the back of the head. I think if they would actually read some of the research on the subject (I will get to that in a minute) then they would realize that they are making a foolish statement when they say “eating more meals a day speeds up your metabolism and makes you lose more weight”.

It is “experts” (I am using the term very loosely) like Katrina Hodgson and Karena Dawn who wrote the Tone It Up Diet Plan and Fat Burning System who say a number of silly things, such as “It’s crucial that you get healthy fuel early in the day to kick start your metabolism…” (p.18) and “You will be eating five meals a day. No skipping meals! Skipping meals will lower your metabolism and your body will use your muscle as fuel, not your fat stores.” (p.7), give me a break. Do they give any quality evidence for their assertion? Of course not. There is not a single reference in their entire e-book. But, hey they look good, so they must know what they are talking about (was my sarcasm too subtle?). Sorry for the digression, but it is this type of bullshit, put out by people that should know better, that leads to the rampant confusion for laypeople, i.e., my clients.

I am not going to go into the details on meal frequency and weight management. The reason is a number of other people have already done a good job of covering this topic, so I will strongly suggest that you go read their stuff, HERE and HERE. Also, Anthony Coplo covers this subject well in his Fat Loss Bible book.

For those of you interested, and especially for those “experts” that keep this myth alive, I will be listing a few of the key papers on this topic (the articles I referred to earlier also listed many of the important research articles in their work). I want to have a place that lists the key information, so I can send people, especially those “experts” that keep saying silly shit, to.

Bellisle, R.et al (1997). Meal frequency and energy balance. Br J Nutrition

Stone, K. et al (2007). A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without calorie restriction in healthy,normal weight, middle-aged adults. Am J Clinical Nutrition

Farshchi,H. et al (2007). Beneficial metabolic effects of regular meal frequency on dietary thermogensis, insulin sensitivity, and fasting lipid profiles in healthy obese women. Am J Clinical Nutrition

Mattson, M. (2005). Energy intake, meal frequency, and health: A neurobiological perspective. Annu Review of Nutrition

Tai, M.et al (1991). Meal size and frequency; effect on the thermic effect of food. Am J Clinical Nutrition

Taylor, MA & Garrow, JS (2001). Compared with nibb;ling, neither gorging nor a morning fast affect short-term energy balance in obese patients in a chamber calorimeter. Inter J Obesity

Leidy, H. & Campbell, W. (2011). The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: Brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies. J Nutrition

To conclude, and to make it as clear as possible, eating many times a day will NOT speed up your metabolism and will NOT make you lose weight if you eat the same amount of calories for the day. If I am wrong then show me the evidence.

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21 Responses to “Eating More Often Does NOT Speed Up Your Metabolism!”

  1. Pussyfoot says:

    Thank you for this. My trainer gave me this advice just the other day.

  2. Robin says:

    What about the “experts” on the other side of the debate (e.g.Leangains, Warrior Diet) who say that eating only once or within a defined time “window” gives you an advantage metabolically?

    Is that equally bunk?

    • Jeff Thiboutot M.S. says:

      Hey Robin, good question. I think there are some potential benefits to Intermittent Fasting (we cover some of that in the book and will probably do a post on that pretty soon), but I am pretty sure that eating less often or within a smaller window will NOT increase overall metabolic rate

  3. Michele says:

    Thanks for this article! I love the professional article references you provided.

    You have no idea what a relief it is to hear that I do not have to force food down my throat before 11am when I am so far from hungry, it’s pure nauseating to eat. I like a little something around noon-1pm, then a meal around 5pm, and I’m good to go. Forcing myself to eat in the A.M. is beyond horrible, and I’m relieved not to have that worry any longer.

    Sidenote: When I do force myself to eat a piece of toast and fruit around 8-9am, my stomach is growling by 11am. Interestingly, if I wait till I am hungry to eat, my stomach won’t growl until around 1:00pm; and I have fewer cravings throughout the day. Eating breakfast has never sat well with me, or for any male member of my family…..we like grits, eggs, and bacon for supper. :-)

    Thanks again for the great article!

  4. Chris says:

    For me, if I eat I want to eat a “meal”. So if I eat 5 times in a day it is likely to send me way over any reasonable number of calories. Each feeding may end up being slightly less than if I only eat 2 or 3 times but not enough less to keep me within a reasonable energy intake. Thrilled that it won’t make a difference in my metabolism or my weight loss.

    I am also curious about the benefits (?) of a defined time window of eating for weight loss. It seems to be the newest “thing”.

  5. Jerry says:

    I dont believe eating 6 times a day increases metabolism for a second. But, I have to be honest I got my bodyfat down below 10% by eating 6 meals a day. I never feel ravenous hungry. My caloric totals are low enough to create a deficit but not feel hungry. Most meals are only 300 calories. I weight train 5 days a week and I dont do any cardio whatsover. My abs are very defined. One other thing I am 51 years old. I also eat a very low carb diet too except my post workout meal. I also believe there is more than one way to skin a cat, so I do believe you could get these same results only eating 3 meals or intermittent fasting protocol. The key is to find the path that fits your lifestyle that you can achieve the results you want.

    • Jeff Thiboutot M.S. says:

      Hey Jerry,
      Sounds like what you are doing is working. That’s great. To be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with eating often, say 6 times a day. My point is that meal frequency, high or low, will not change a persons overall metabolic rate if they continue to eat the SAME amount of calories.

  6. [...] Burning System by Katrina Hodgson and Karena Dawn. I recently highlighted some of their bullshit HERE and will highlight a bit more of it now, so put on your hip waders as we will be up to our waist in [...]

  7. Stef says:

    The tone it up girls may not have substantial evidence to back up their claims but they both have gorgeous bodies, so they must be doing something right. Can you explain that? I always think the proof is in the pudding. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

    • Jeff Thiboutot M.S. says:

      Stef,
      thanks for the comment/question. First, I have had a number of people say something similar to what you have stated and no doubt that many other people have thought it. therefore I am going to do a post on this view so that I can address it thoroughly. I should have the post up in a few days. Second, I have to disagree with your “substantial evidence” comment. The Tone It Up girls really give NO evidence for their recommendations. If you read my reviews of some of their recommendations you will see that there is actually little or no quality evidence to support their statements (see my forthcoming post on Food Intake and Cortisol Levels to see that the Tone It Up girls continue to pass along misinformation)

    • Matt Schoeneberger says:

      Stef,

      I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, since I wanted to respond as soon as I saw your comment but felt it was better to let Jeff chime in since this was his post.

      I understand where you’re coming from, but would ask you to consider something. What if those two girls have always been that way? I don’t know their story and I don’t care to, so maybe they were once heavy but are now fit. But if not, maybe they have favorable genetics and have always been involved in athletic pursuits, which means they didn’t really get their bodies through their program at all. This doesn’t invalidate their program, but it doesn’t lend support to it either. This also doesn’t take anything away from them as they’ve worked hard for their bodies all these years.

      THIS IS PURELY HYPOTHETICAL: Imagine the promoter of a fat loss program who has an amazing physique, but got that physique through weight loss surgery or through weight loss pills they don’t mention in their plan. If they use themselves to promote the plan, isn’t it easy to see how people could be misled easily? I’m NOT saying the girls have done this – this is just a hypothetical situation I’m using to explain why this type of anecdotal evidence can be misleading. Actually, it’s not hypothetical – there is one popular fat loss program promoter doing this – and it’s a shame.

  8. [...] thing in a couple of places. First, we have to thank our Tone It Up girls (see HERE and HERE for more about their other recommendations, I mean bullshit) for the following information, I mean [...]

  9. Great article, like you say most personal training need to start doing their own research rather than regurgitating information they’ve picked up along the way, I too cringe every time I hear a friend or family member tell me this. I introduced a daily 16-18 hour fast into my nutritional program with very positive results. Lost 13 lbs and almost 8% bf in 45 days. My website is listed above, hope you don’t mind Jeff

  10. [...] Frequency – I did not cover this topic here because I have covered it previously HERE. The skinny on it is that eating the SAME amount of CALORIES for the day in 3 or 6 or any other [...]

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    YOU should know better not to use light font against a black background. My eyes are watering from reading one paragraph. Are you trying to make me blind?!

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