Before we disassemble yet another metabolism myth, let’s recap an important point that will be useful for this conversation.
You can’t improve metabolism beyond what your genetics dictate.
While many people incorrectly diet and eat far too few calories for far too long, and lower metabolism substantially as a result, the fix for this is simply eating what your body requires to maintain weight when fed properly. Increase your calories to maintenance for a couple weeks and so long as you don’t have any unusual medical conditions, you will see your metabolism return to normal.
Trying to raise it further is futile. Don’t waste time trying to elevate metabolism. Spend your time creating a calorie deficit through the process of eating a bit more (to fuel cell mitochondria and get maximum hormonal benefits) and working out a bit harder to burn extra calories.
Eating a little more is often key to breaking a diet plateau. Don’t keep sending your body the message that there’s a food shortage. Send the message that there’s plenty of food available and the calories don’t need to be stored because you expend a lot of energy every day.
All that said, there’s simply no need to time those meals out and eat at specific time. Enter.. our next metabolism myth.
Myth 7: Eating every few hours keeps the metabolism revved up
Meal frequency was all the rage for many years in the fitness world. You could rarely find a guy trying to add muscle, who wasn’t eating a well-timed meal every three hours.
It was the gospel and you didn’t dare question the methodology. This myth became so engrained in our way of thinking that many people still believe the necessity of meal frequency today.
The origin of meal frequency can be traced back to about the same time that TEF became popular. When people learned that protein burned more calories, trainers everywhere started espousing the untested belief that eating more protein, more often, would result in more caloried burned over the course of a day.
The fact is that the Thermic Effect of Food will not burn extra calories by spacing your meals out. You’ll burn fewer calories per meal and more calories when eating more, when TEF factor into daily calories.
It also seemed “reasonable” to conclude that by eating every few hours, the body is forced to keep burning calories.. which results in a raised metabolism, right?
Your body must expend a specific amount of calories to process the calories you ingest. If you raise calories in one meal, more energy is required to process those calories. If you eat 2,000 calories in one meal, cellular activity is increased, hormonal triggers and responses are increased and you would require much more energy than eating only 200 calories.
In the end, it’s total calories that make a difference – not calories consumed per meal. This energy balance equation has been confirmed and the myth of meal frequency, dispelled.
There was also a time when people believed that blood sugar was better regulated by eating more often. Blood sugar does cause an insulin spike, and it is physiologically impossible to burn fat in the presence of high insulin, but eating more often does not better regulate blood sugar, as the provided research link confirms.
Limiting carbohydrates has a place in leaning up and losing that last bit of body fat but the conversion to sugar that takes place in the body after eating carbs will not increase metabolism.
Remember.. it’s total calories, at the end of the day, that matter most. If you exercise and exert more physical energy, you can eat more. If you work at a desk all day long and then go home and watch TV all evening, you must limit calorie intake more than most or body fat will result.
But the nice thing is that you can save all your calories for that favorite TV show, if that’s your preference. Rather you choose to eat morning, noon or night – it doesn’t matter. How many meals you eat during the day – it doesn’t matter.
Your metabolism is not dictated by how often you eat.