I mean, I would like to say that I hate breaking all the fitness hearts out there, but the simple truth is that this is a myth that needs to die.
It has been espoused by every trainer and fitness ‘pro’ for the last 4 decades. Yes, I admit it, I too once fell pray to preaching this mantra. To everyone, I am sorry.
In all fairness to myself and to the rest of the industry back then, we didn’t know any better. And no one had really done properly designed research into it.
But now there is no excuse. There is no reason to continue to spread this utter nonsense. It is time to get caught up on your research and knowledge of human physiology and recognize that the idea eating more frequently speeds up our metabolic rate is garbage.
Where does the idea come from?
Look, the theory is seemingly sound.
The idea is that when we eat it takes calories to burn up and digest that food, hence, when you eat you burn more calories than if you did not eat.
Note that we need to discuss the concept of RMR (resting metabolic rate). This is the number of calories you burn, or think of it as the energy you expend, to live. Breathing, heart beat, muscle growth, organ function and everything else that happens to keep you alive. And this is significant because it makes up 70-80% of all the energy you expend in a day – IRREGARDLESS – of exercise and activity.
So your valiant efforts to upregulate (just trying to sound fancy here) your metabolic rate have very little effect on your overall calorie expenditure.
Definitely exercise and movement burns energy and has an effect long term. BUT. It isn’t what you think. Research shows that your body has a limit, like a built in governor for your body, that after a certain point it doesn’t let you increase your metabolic expenditure.
Scientific American put out a great article explaining all of this!
So you can get a little extra calorie burn from exercise but this doesn’t SPEED up your metabolism. Your metabolism is still churning along at its rate.
But what about eating, Coach Taylor? You seem to be off on a tangent. I am. Bear with me.
All the fitness people are clamouring to find the comment section right now and I need to stop the exodus to that part of the page!
‘But Coach, when you add a pound of muscle you burn and extra 50 calories a day! So that is a faster metabolism!!” Sorry. But again. A misguided fitness myth that gets passed down trainer to trainer. That number was formulated in lab tests, NOT in an actual real and fully functional organism! Ten extra pounds of muscle (which is an INCREDIBLE amount of muscle to add by the way….) will not immediately mean you are burning an extra 500 calories a day.
Bringing it Back
To the eating!
So the idea is that when you eat, you burn calories digesting, therefor, increased metabolism.
Sure. It is true. When you eat, anywhere from 10-20% of the energy consumed in food gets used up digesting that food. But like exercise, this doesn’t change your RMR (remember, resting metabolic rate AKA your metabolism). It’s just an energy expenditure.
AND it is going to happen no matter what. If you eat all your calories in one meal or you eat them spaced out over 8 meals, that calorie burn is going to happen the exact same way. There is ZERO net benefit to spacing the meals out.
Instead what happens is this:
- You end up eating way more calories because you have to eat so many times
- OR, you end up eating 6 almonds, and a leaf of lettuce, for a ‘meal’ because you are eating all the time and don’t want to increase your overall calories
- You’re constantly focused on food, and food prep, and food packing, and finding time to eat
So, eating more frequently does not make you burn more calories (expend extra energy in a day) than eating only once or twice. This is a myth.
Long Gaps will SLOW Your Meatbolism….
The only thing I can say here is….no.
No it won’t.
And if you don’t know then you don’t know. (if you don’t get the reference, then you don’t know…)
It means you are way behind in keeping current on the current literature. I have written on this extensively as have a lot of people WAY smarter than me.
All of the research on fasting finds, over, and over, and over again, that fasting windows DOES NOT slow your metabolic rate. Additionally, the data also shows that fasting windows do NOT impair muscle function or development.
From an evolutionary perspective it would have been very bad for us is long gaps without food negatively impacted our bodies so dramatically because in the course of human history we ate once or twice a day, never 3 meals plus snacks in between. That is a modern marketing campaign designed to sell you more calories (that is another blog post entirely).
Do not start eating more frequently in the hopes that you will ‘rev up’ your metabolism and therefore lose weight. It doesn’t make sense. If you eat 2000 calories in a day, it doesn’t matter if it is in one meal or 8 meals, the total thermic effect of food will be the same!
But! You will be more likely to either over eat because of all the extra meals, or to hate eating because to keep your calories in a healthy range you have to eat really low calorie options all the time.
Additionally, you are going to be so focused on food prep and finding time to eat that it will feel like a part time job. BECAUSE IT WILL BECOME ONE. And MOST people who eat like this actually are fitness pros who, you guessed it, actually DO this as their job.
What should you do?
READ THIS IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE DETAILS
I use the term intermittent fasting because it is recognizable and easy to share. But really, it’s just THE WAY WE ARE SUPPOSED TO EAT.
You should eat once or twice a day. Real food that you cook and prep yourself. From actual ingredients. I have written about all of this extensively!!!!!
For now, get it out of your head that eating more often will speed up your metabolism.
It won’t. #sorrynotsorry