Fitness Myths – Episode 1 – Eat Small, Frequent Meals to Boost your Metabolism

Our bodies are machines and like any other machine it needs fuel to operate. And not just operating in the gym but in every other aspect of your life. From walking to the bathroom, writing on a piece of paper to simply sitting motionless on a couch and living. Everything we do requires fuel and that fuel for us humans is food, calories, donuts… more donuts.

One of the biggest “broscience” truths preached when it comes to feeding our body is that eating small frequent meals will help speed up your metabolism. The number is normally 5 – 6 meals and at about a clip of every 2 – 3 hours.Idea behind this is that your Metabolism is a fire and by continuously putting wood on it (aka meals) you can keep that fire stoked for longer. The concept seems logical – there is just one problem with it … your body is not a fire.

Eating every 2 – 3 hours is a lot of time devoted to not only planning out your next meal but also worrying about when you’re going to get your next meal in. Simply put, for those hustling and grinding out there, ain’t nobody got time for that sort of eating schedule.

There a 3 reasons why this is just flat out wrong – 2 are a little more scientifically based while the other one is more just a matter of opinion (but I have a feeling many of you will agree).

  • 1) We all have a natural BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate/Metabolism). This means that by just merely doing nothing, just sitting still and living, you’re burning calories. This is the bare minimum calories needed to perform all of your vital internal functions. There is spotty/shaky to no evidence that eating frequent meals boosts your metabolism. You know what does? Building muscle (Consult my leg day post and grow those legs)
  • 2) Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF). This is the calorie burn of eating a meal. Every time we feed, calories are being expended through the process of eating/digesting. Typically, protein calories cause a 20-30% increase in TEF while carbs elicit a 6-8% increase and fats just 2-3%. Lets consider an average mixed meal at 15% TEF.

1 Meal at 2,000 Calories x 15% TEF = 300 TEF calorie burn 

5 meals at 400 calories x 15% TEF/meal = 60 TEF calorie burn x 5 = 300 total TEF calorie burn 

  • 2) As you can see, pretty much the same thermic effect regardless of if it is 1 meal or 5. Eating 5 – 6 meals a day should be done purely from a preference standpoint. If you like spacing out your meals over that many throughout the day, then by all means go for it. Myself, on the other hand, prefer larger meals because I get to eat more in one sitting (I avg 3 – 4 meals a day).
  • 3) This one has nothing to do with science and everything to do with Life. I’m sure those that have experienced a show prep have come across the term #TuppLife or some variation of that. Meaning, you’re carrying your Tupperware everywhere in hopes of never missing a meal. Forget that! Life happens and sometimes you’re just running around all day and you don’t want to worry about getting that next meal. Dropping the meal frequency will allow you to drop the concern of getting meals in. There’s nothing worse than being wrapped up in a task or even enjoying a good time and having to stop everything so you can go eat.

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In closing, the human body is truly an incredible machine (stating the obvious here). When we take care of it at optimal levels, it can do things far beyond our wildest dreams. And even when we don’t, our bodies still find ways to adapt and survive. Lets look back to where we evolved from. You know our ancestors were not counting down the minutes till their next meal. They were lucky if they even ate once in a day. Meal frequency will not help you burn more fat. It will certainly ensure that your day revolves around food, however. Your move…

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