Everyone knows that eating is an essential part of our lives. No two people have the same eating or dietary habits and patterns. While some people get by with barely eating, others love to eat delicious food and have no qualms about the kind of food they consume. Due to so many different types of dietary and eating habits, it is possible to easily get confused about what our optimal meal frequency would be. In fact, there is a lot of confusing advice present on the internet about optimal meal frequency. The optimal meal frequency of a person also depends on whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle mass or you simply need to pile on a few pounds. So how many meals should you ideally be having in a day to increase your metabolism? Let us help you find your optimal meal frequency.
Should You Be Having More Meals To Increase Your Metabolism?
Conventionally, people believe in having three big meals in a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and sometimes indulge in having some light snacks between lunch and dinner. Evening tea or coffee is also a habit for many people. Many experts believe that while having breakfast gives a boost to the body for burning fat, following breakfast with 5 to 6 smaller meals during the day will keep your metabolism running at the ideal pace.
The metabolic rate of a person refers to the number of calories your body is capable of burning within a specific period of time. Keeping this in mind, the idea that eating more frequent and smaller meals is going to increase your metabolic rate is simply not true. It is a persistent myth. Digesting a meal definitely does increase the body’s metabolism slightly. This phenomenon is called the thermic effect of food. However, smaller meals and more frequent meals do not have an effect on the metabolism because it is the total amount of food a person consumes that determines the actual amount of energy that is expended during digestion. This is why having three meals of approximately 800 calories in a day will cause a similar thermic effect as that of eating 6 smaller meals of approximately 400 calories each. There is no difference in the thermic effect, and thus, there is no difference in the metabolic rate either. Many studies have also proven that eating multiple smaller meals as compared to three large meals has no significant effect on the metabolic rate of the body or on the amount of fat loss.
Do Frequent Meals Help Reduce Cravings and Balance Blood Sugar?
Many people often provide the argument that eating more frequently helps balance their blood sugar levels. This argument is also frequently presented by people who are diabetics. The premise behind this argument lies in the belief that having larger meals is associated with rapid fluctuations in the levels of blood sugar while having more frequent and smaller meals is believed to stabilize the blood sugar levels during the entire day. However, there is no scientific proof that shows this to be correct. In fact, studies have shown that individuals who have larger and fewer meals have lower levels of blood glucose on an average. While they experience a bigger spike in their blood sugar levels, but their overall blood glucose levels remain much lower. This is important for diabetics because having a high blood sugar can be problematic for them.
Eating less frequently has also been proven to lower hunger and also improve satiety levels as compared to eating more frequently. If controlling your blood sugar is the main concern, then you need to be aware that breakfast is the most important meal of the day that has a role to play. This is because several studies have shown that having breakfast properly, ideally it should be the largest meal of the day, lowers your average daily levels of blood sugar.
Importance of Breakfast: The First Meal of the Day
Breakfast, the first meal of the day, is responsible for jumpstarting your metabolism for the entire day. Having a proper breakfast also helps you lose weight. Studies have also shown that people who skip breakfast are at a higher risk of being obese than those who eat breakfast regularly. Eating a good and healthy breakfast helps many factors of your health. This is primarily because the human body has better blood sugar control in the morning. This is why consuming a high-calorie breakfast leads to a lower daily average of blood sugar levels, rather than having a high-calorie dinner. In fact, a study conducted on people having type-2 diabetes found that if diabetics fasted till noon, this significantly increased their blood sugar levels after both lunch and dinner. This is why it is important for diabetics to begin their mornings with a healthy breakfast.
What Happens if You Skip a Meal?
Skipping a meal or undertaking intermittent fasting has become a trend these days. Many people choose to strategically skip certain meals, such as breakfast, or lunch every day. They follow this pattern for either 24-hours or they set aside a day every week where they skip a meal. Many may think that skipping a meal is going to make you lose your muscle mass. However, this is not true. Studies undertaken on short-term fasting have shown that the body’s metabolic rate actually goes up at the beginning of the fasting. The metabolic rate only tends to go down following periods of extended fasting. Furthermore, studies have also shown that intermittent fasting has many benefits for your health, including lowering body glucose levels, improving insulin sensitivity, lowering insulin, amongst others. Intermittent fasting or skipping a meal also leads to cellular level clean up known as autophagy, a process during which the cells of the body clear out waste products that built up in the cells and are causing diseases and contributing to aging.
There are no proven benefits associated with eating more frequently and having smaller meals. This method does not help you lose weight or burn more calories. Eating more frequently also has no benefits for controlling your blood sugar. In fact, studies have shown that having a fewer number of meals during the day is far healthier and beneficial to your body. Therefore, it is correct to say that the optimal meal frequency for any individual should be to eat when hungry and to stop when full.
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