Level – Beginner
Words – 1000
Reading time – 2-3 minutes
Does eating at regular intervals increase metabolic rate?
In this blog I hope to discuss if eating every 2-3 hours is really needed, or whether there is other things you could put your focus into.
Come on, how many of you have gone through a stage of clock watching, waiting for that 3 hour window to pass so you can eat again and supposedly “speed up your metabolism”?
Let me tell you, I’m holding my hand high. I use to prepare 2-3 of the same meal every day, usually something along the lines of chicken and rice, and actually set into my schedule, for when I was “allowed’ to eat it.
I dreaded looking at the clock, knowing at 10:30am, I had to try and stomach cold chicken and broccoli, all in the hope of speeding up my metabolism and burning more fat.
While perhaps planning into the day, when you are going to have your meals and snacks could be a good idea with a busy schedule, having to ensure you eat every 2-3 hours is nonsense.
The thought behind it, is that it will speed up your metabolism, and accelerate fat loss.
There is no magic number on the amount of meals you should at per day, we’re going to look at a couple of extremes:
This would be someone who finds themselves wanting to eat fairly often and snack continuously throughout the day, opposed to just sticking to 3 square meals. They probably would still eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, but just reduce the size of these, and factor in 2-3 snacks throughout the day, in and around these meals.
Their day might look something like this:
07:30 – Breakfast
10:30 – Mid morning snack
13:00 – Lunch
16:00 – Mid afternoon snack
19:00 – Dinner
21:00 -Evening Snack
While this may benefit them due to personal preference and lifestyle, it has no impact on calorie expenditure over the course of the day, and therefore will not promote additional fat loss as shown in the following study:
There is nothing wrong with this approach if this is something you can stick to. It just offers no extra benefit where fat loss is concerned.
Lets now flip this on its head, and compare it against low meal frequency, 2-3 meals per day.
This may suit somebody who has a very busy work/life schedule, and doesn’t want to be planning and preparing 3-4 meals/snacks per day. It doesn’t mean intentionally starving yourself either All it means is that when they do eat, they consume more calories in each given meal.
Their day may look more like this:
13:00 – Lunch
19:30 – Dinner
This is quite an extreme protocol, but in some cases it can be beneficial to those who;
1) Prefer not to plan and cook meals multiple times in the day
2) Enjoy larger portion sizes
Typically most of us would probably fall in between the two, and eat 2-3 square meals, plus a snack or two per day.
The benefit to knowing this means you can change meal frequency day to day based on your circumstances. If you have a meal out in the evening which you think will be around 1000 calories, the typical grazer won’t be able to eat their usual 5 meals prior to this. So you may go with breakfast and lunch being 500 calories and save that 1000 calories for their dinner.
Note: This is based on a daily calorie intake of 2000
The important thing to realise it that the number of meals you eat per day will not affect calorie expenditure. The main diet consideration should be personal preference, convenience and sustainability.
Using our 2000 calorie per day example, this could be made up from:
4 x 500 kcal meals
2 x 1000 kcal meals
8 x 250 kcal meals
Or any number in between.
There may be benefit in eating more, or less frequently depending on you as an individual, but any changes in metabolism will not be one of them.
- Understanding your daily calorie intake is priority.
- You should eat as little or as often as you want to eat, as long as calorie allowance is kept to.
- Meal frequency should be based on personal preference, and lifestyle, opposed to think it will have any effect on fat loss.
- If you prefer larger feedings, eat bigger less frequent meals
- If you prefer smaller feedings, eat more often.