How many times have you heard that eating small frequent meals will speed up your metabolism and help you lose more weight?
It’s a very popular belief, often quoted in gyms and fitness magazines.
“The metabolism is like a fire which must be stoked throughout the day.
So if you eat 9-10 small frequent meals, instead of 3 big ones, you will speed up your metabolism and burn more fat.”
In fact, that’s not how any of this works.
This myth ends now…
Does Eating Small Frequent Meals Speed Up Your Metabolism?
This belief is so well-ingrained into the fitness world that I remember being taught it on a personal training course.
But that doesn’t make it true.
Let’s look at the available science on this topic.
A great meta-analysis was published back in 2015 in Nutrition Reviews which looked at 15 studies on meal frequency to determine it’s possible effect on metabolosm. (1)
The authors state:
“The small difference in magnitude of effect between meal frequencies suggests that any potential benefits, if they exist at all, have limited practical significance.
Given that adherence is of primary concern with respect to nutritional prescription, the number of daily meals consumed should come down to personal choice if one’s goal is to improve body composition.”
Basically, do what works for you.
In 2013, when researchers from the University of Colorado looked at whether increasing meal frequency from three meals per day to six meals per day would have any effect on the body’s metabolism.
They found that it did not.
However, it did noticeably increase hunger. (2)
Interestingly, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating 1-2 meals per day also increased hunger levels. (3)
But what about fat loss?
Well, a 2005 study from researchers at the University of Ottawa compared the fat loss benefits of eating 3 meals per day versus eating 6 meals per day. By the end of the 8 week program, participants had lost an average of 4.7% body fat but there was no difference between those eating 3 or 6 meals per day. (4)
Meal Frequency: Take-Home Points
There is no evidence to say that 1, 3, 6 or even 10 meals per day is superior for fat loss.
All the available research suggests that you should simply do which one fits your lifestyle the best, because that will lead to greater sustainability, and sustainability is the key to a good fat loss diet.
I’ve known tons of guys in gyms who’ve over-complicated their diet to the point where they focus on tiny little details without taking care of the big picture.
So they’ll spend tons of money on supplements, and get quite obsessive over how many meals per day they eat, but conveniently ignore the fact that they’re drinking every weekend and/or eating takeaways, then wonder why they’re not losing any weight.
Don’t take this approach.
“Yeah, brah. You gotta eat every 2 hours to stop yourself going catabolic. Otherwise your muscles are just wasting away!”
One of the things I find most ironic about bodybuilders who say things like that, is they’ll often advise you to perform early morning fasted cardio to lose more body fat!
I mean, if your muscles are going to “waste away” after 2-3 hours of no food, why would you then suggest going 8-10 hours and hitting a cardio workout?
The metabolism is not like a fire. It does not need to be stoked throughout the day with small frequent meals.
This bulls**t myth was created without any evidence. And despite the fact there’s a lot of research debunking it, it remains a popular belief in most gyms.
But not anymore.
At least, not for you.
If you enjoyed my article on “Eating Small Frequent Meals Is A Weight Loss Myth”, then you’ll probably also love my article “10 Weight Loss Tips That F**king Work”. Go read that.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., et al. Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews. (2015)
- Ohkawara, K., et al. Effects of increased meal frequency on fat oxidation and perceived hunger. Obesity. (2013)
- Leidy, H. J., et al. The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies. J Nutr. (2011)
- Cameron, J. D., et al. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet. Br J Nutr. (2010)