The notion that eating smaller meals frequently throughout the day increases your metabolic rate has been promoted all over the fitness industry. This myth has been debunked a number of times and the guys from Examine.com have put a nail in the coffin.
A study to investigate the effect of eating frequency on one’s metabolic rate  shows that there is no difference between eating a massive meal at once or consuming smaller more frequent meals throughout the day. A review article that included 179 abstracts found that there is no significant relation between meal frequency and weight loss, although there is a need for long term evidence.
“Various individual interventions that modify meal frequency while keeping calories static find that there is no difference in metabolic rate (24 hour energy expenditure) between the two groups and that there are no changes in weight loss at the end of the trial periods. When calories are dropped significantly, metabolic rate declines slightly but overall declines based on calories and not meal frequency.“
“One side of the argument for ‘keeping the metabolic rate up’ with eating frequency implies that more frequent eating patterns increase the metabolic rate.
A meta-analysis conducted on eating frequency notes that “studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24 h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging. Finally, with the exception of a single study, there is no evidence that weight loss on hypoenergetic regimens is altered by meal frequency. We conclude that any effects of meal pattern on the regulation of body weight are likely to be mediated through effects on the food intake side of the energy balance equation”. A review article conducted assessing 179 abstracts (of which 10 studies were deemed relevant to assess meal frequency and weight loss interactions) found no significant relation between meal frequency and weight loss, albeit calling for more long-term evidence. These results are found in other review articles on the subject matter.
Various individual interventions that modify meal frequency while keeping calories static find that there is no difference in metabolic rate (24 hour energy expenditure) between the two groups and that there are no changes in weight loss at the end of the trial periods. When calories are dropped significantly, metabolic rate declines slightly but overall declines based on calories and not meal frequency.”
So at the end of the day, the most important thing to keep track of is your calories regardless if you have smaller meals or bigger meals throughout the day. Find a schedule of eating that suits your lifestyle and allows you maximum performance.
- Bellisle F, McDevitt R, Prentice AM Meal frequency and energy balance . Br J Nutr. (1997)
- Palmer MA, Capra S, Baines SK Association between eating frequency, weight, and health . Nutr Rev. (2009)
- Leidy HJ, Campbell WW The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies . J Nutr. (2011)
- Taylor MA, Garrow JS Compared with nibbling, neither gorging nor a morning fast affect short-term energy balance in obese patients in a chamber calorimeter . Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (2001)
- Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR Influence of the feeding frequency on nutrient utilization in man: consequences for energy metabolism . Eur J Clin Nutr. (1991)
- Smeets AJ, Westerterp-Plantenga MS Acute effects on metabolism and appetite profile of one meal difference in the lower range of meal frequency . Br J Nutr. (2008)
- Cameron JD, Cyr MJ, Doucet E 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)
- Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR Frequency of feeding, weight reduction and energy metabolism . Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1993)
Read the full article on examine.com