Hits and myths: does eating more frequently boost your metabolism?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 9:56am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 9:56am

Q: Does eating often throughout the day boost your metabolism?

The straight answer: No

The facts: You may have read that eating six mini-meals a day is better for your metabolism than eating three large main meals a day.

It is thought the more often you eat, the more stimulated your metabolism becomes, and the more calories you will burn.

What we know for sure is that skipping meals slows down your metabolism, as it triggers the body to go into starvation mode, causing it to store fat but burn muscle.

However, it is not true that eating more often throughout the day will lead to more calories being burned, says Ardyce Yik, a registered naturopathic doctor from the Integrated Medicine Institute.

"There are simply no studies to suggest this," she says. "Besides, it doesn't matter whether you eat three or six meals a day. What's more important is the number of calories you are consuming."

The fact is our metabolism increases each time we eat. If we consume, 1,800 calories over three meals throughout the day, the body experiences the same metabolic increase as if we were to consume the same number of calories over six small meals.

Eating six mini-meals per day just ensures that our metabolism increases slightly six times that day, as opposed to increasing substantially three times if we were to eat a trio of larger meals.

The great thing about eating frequently throughout the day is that it keeps you satisfied, maintains your energy and sugar levels, and reduces hunger cravings. The less hungry you are, the less likely you will make bad food choices or binge-eat come mealtime.

The key to making these small meals work is to select the right foods and watch how much you eat, says Ardyce. Many people consume large servings of food often throughout the day and wonder why they cannot lose weight.

Examples of healthy mini-meals include an egg and sliced tomato on a slice of wholegrain toast, low-fat yogurt with a few tablespoons of high-fibre cereal, about 110 grams of lean chicken or fish with some grilled vegetables, and baby carrots with hummus and a handful of almonds. These meals contain just a couple of hundred calories each and should keep you satisfied for about three hours. Each meal should be consumed every three hours to prevent your blood sugar levels from crashing.

When trying to maintain your weight, Ardyce says to keep in mind that diet is not the only thing you should monitor. Whatever your age, it is also important to exercise regularly - at least 20 minutes, three to five times a week.