Over the course of my career as a personal trainer and even longer if you count when I went to UConn for Dietetics (a fancy way of saying nutrition), I’ve come across a number of fitness and dieting myths. A few of these myths revolve around eating multiple meals to speed up your metabolism and that eating late at night, especially carbs. Here are a few excerpts from my classes that I teach at my gym that touch upon it.
Does eating a lot of small meals speed up my metabolism?
The short answer is: no. It is possible to “speed up” your metabolism, you do that by working out and building up more lean tissue (which is the only tissue in the body that burns calories), NOT by eating a smaller, more frequent meals. In fact, a lot of the research seems to show that it increases hunger which can make sticking to your proper calories and macros even harder.
Think of it this way: you cannot speed up your metabolism by eating small meals any more than you can burn more gas in your car by fueling up at a gallon at a time. Instead, we’re going to upgrade our smaller V6 engine to a larger V8; THAT will increase your energy levels.
Do I need to worry about eating every few hours?
No, only if you would like to do so. Plenty of people see success with their weight loss/gain goals eating many small meals a day or eating only a few later on at night. Calories in vs. out over the course of the ENTIRE day is all that matter.
Going back to the car analogy, it’s the idea that you burn more gas by fueling up every few miles instead of just after you are just low. The time of the day that you eat your meal(s) has no effect on your metabolism.
Is there any benefit to meal frequency, meal timing, or multiple meals through the day?
Yes! But really only for the two big things we need to focus on: giving your body what you need and giving you what you want. If it is EASIER to eat every few hours, eat multiple times a day, and eat only at certain times of the day, then do it! There’s no benefit to your metabolism but there may be a benefit to helping you match your plan to your lifestyle.
There are also extreme cases such as athletes who train multiple times a day and competitors or are about to step on stage or in front of a camera; these factors can be the difference between placing well and not. For the average person, the only thing I ever touch upon would be pre-workout nutrition (fueling your body before a workout) and post workout nutrition (giving your body the nutrients it needs to recover).
I hope these have helped dispel some myths and will make your training that much easier.
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