Does Meal Frequency Truly Increase Metabolism?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed an idea gain momentum and that idea is that you can eat several meals throughout the day and lose weight because of it. The main philosophy behind this idea is that you raise your metabolism by eating five or six meals instead of two or three. By raising your metabolism, you’re able to increase your bodies ability to burn fat.

Is this even possible or is it just a big fat myth who needs its bubble burst?

Several epidemiological studies have observed an inverse relationship between people’s habitual frequency of eating and body weight, leading to the suggestion that a ‘nibbling’ meal pattern may help in the avoidance of obesity – NCBI

“Surely it has to have some truth to it,” I thought. After all, it wouldn’t continue to grow in popularity if it didn’t work. The logic behind it makes sense. Our metabolism does increase when we eat. So I have found some scientific research that has been done which helps us understand how valid of an idea this is and whether or not we have discovered the magic bullet for diet and weight loss.

I discovered three different studies which have been conducted. Each study had slightly different conditions, but all came to the same conclusion. Before I give away the big secret, let’s take a look at each study, shall we?

Did Metabolism Increase When Consuming More Meals A Day?

First Study

8 people were used in the first study and were split into two groups. Both groups were given the same diet and intake of calories on a daily basis over the period of a few weeks. A number of calories given to both groups was designed so that all 8 people would lose weight. The only difference was that one group was given their daily calorie intake in one meal a day while the rest were spread out over 5 meals.

It would be expected that the group who ate more frequently would have lost more weight than the group who only ate one time a day. All things were equal in their intake of protein, calories, carbohydrates, and fat. If this idea of increased metabolism is true, those researchers should have found a significant difference between the groups. So what did they find? Let’s keep going before I give you the answer.

Second Study

The second study also looked at meal frequency among a group of 16 people. The group consisted of 8 men and 8 women. The focus was the same, to discover whether meal frequency had an effect on metabolism and the ability to lose weight or not.

Again the group was split into two equally divided groups. Over the 8 weeks that the study was conducted, one group was given their daily intake in 3 meals a day. The other was given 3 meals and 3 snacks. So what conclusion did this study come from? We will get to that.

Third Study

The final study again split people into two groups. The first group ate twice a day while the second ate seven times a day. The study focused on a gorging method of eating compared to what was labeled as a grazing pattern. What were the results?

The answer is no. Sorry to crush your hopes and dreams, but the reality is that increased meal frequency is a myth. You cannot lose weight by increasing the number of times a day that you eat. All of the information and studies that have been done have come to the same conclusion and shown the same results. None of the groups who ate more often showed any signs of significant differences in the amount of weight they lost.

The excess calories you consume will help preserve overall body mass (fat included) because the calories you consume will be greater than the amount of thermogenesis they cause. But it may mean that having a mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening feeding may help you lose body fat and maintain your hard earned muscle. –

In the end, it’s not really a surprise that this is a myth. No matter how hard we try, we will never escape the reality that a proper diet and exercise are the essential elements of weight loss which we cannot get around.

Yet during my research, I did come across the idea of thermogenic weight loss. There does seem to be some science behind the idea of being able to eat in order to lose weight. But you’re going to have to come back to learn more about how you really can influence weight loss with your eating habits that go beyond just counting your calorie, carbohydrate, and fat intake.

There are also foods which can boost metabolism, but at the end of the day, the idea that you can burn more calories by increasing a number of meals you consume is nothing more than a myth, plain and simple.