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Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

Eating 6 times a day or very frequent eating does not speed up your metabolism faster than if you eat it 3 times a day. If this frequency of eating gives you a better feeling, it can be effective, but it will not cause weight loss and will not prevent you from gaining weight.

Effects of eating frequency on speed of metabolism

One argument for maintaining fast metabolism based on frequent eating is that more frequent eating habits increase speed of metabolic.

Meta-analysis based on eating frequency notes [1], that “studies using total calorimetry and water in which oxygen and hydrogen have been partially or completely replaced by an isotope (oxygen and hydrogen atoms with the same proton numbers but different numbers of neurons) on an estimate of total energy expenditure over 24 hours, did not find any difference between eating small amount of food or overeating”.

Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

Finally, with the exception of one study, there is no evidence that weight loss is due to the frequency of food consumption. Thus, it can be concluded that any effects of the dietary model on weight control are likely to be mediated by the effects on the food intake side in the energy balance equation”. [2]

The article which looked at evaluation of 179 studies (10 out of which considered important to assess the interaction of dietary frequency and weight loss), did not find any significant link between them, although it required a longer term study. [3] These results are also found in other articles with reviews on this issue.[3] Various individual changes that affect the frequency of food consumption while maintaining static calories have found that there is no difference in metabolic speed (24-hour energy expenditure) between these two groups [4], and that there is no difference in weight loss at the end of the study. With a significant reduction in calories, the speed of metabolism decreases slightly, but the overall reduction is cause by calories, not by the frequency of diet. [5]

Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

However, one recent study found the opposite, that compared to 3 meals versus 14 meals over a 36-hour period in healthy men’s metabolic chamber, there were no significant differences in total energy expenditure and only a modest increase in rest spending in the lower frequency group. [6]

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Increase in eating frequency and muscle growth

Only few studies have discussed the increase in dietary frequency and weight gain but limited evidence (in this and the epidemiological section) show that weight gain is due to calorie intake rather than dietary frequency.[7]

Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

Short fasting

After 36 hours of fasting, metabolic speed increased and did not change even after measurement in 72 hours. Adrenaline increased after 72 hours (but not after 36) and after measurement after 48 hours it seemed that andrenaline produced more heat (thermogenesis). [8]

Intentional fasting

In people who do not suffer from obesity, “alternative fasting day” (for example fasting every second day), did not demonstrate reduction of metabolism speed after 22 days (when instructed to eat twice more on the day they did not fast and thus compensate for these fasting days). [9] Studies conducted during the Ramadan holiday also noted an apparent lack of differences in overall metabolic parameters between those who did fasting and those who did not. [10] Although some studies (most of them in unhealthy people) showed only limited health benefits with so called Ramadan fasting – if food intake is relatively regularly maintained, it appears to be variable. While the speed of metabolism has not been much studied, it does not appear to change significantly.[11]

Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

Epidemiological research

Extensive research tends to show a correlation between dietary frequency and obesity, with an inverse view of overeating in relation to the BMI index (obese people seem to eat less and lean people tend to eat more often). These studies are not focused on muscle mass but on BMI index, but it seems that more meals per day increase BMI index and body weight. However, there are very limited evidences which are questioned at high level.      

Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

In addition, ISNN (International Standard Serial Number) report several observational studies that do not show that the eating frequency affects weight loss. Interesting are some that suggest a relationship, but with eliminated interconnection by taking into account factors such as smoking, drinking and stress, which may be causative factors. Moreover, the eating frequency is clearly linked with total calorie intake.

Thermal effects of food

Thermal effects of food (the energy needed to digest food to extract calories from food) are considered by some researchers as an important long-term control point for obesity. Irregular eating habits, regardless their frequency, appear to be associated with reduced thermal effects of foods.

Exercise

Exercise has been described as an unstable variable in epidemiological research because of the energy that is exerted during exercise and because of the exercise’s ability to suppress appetite.

Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

Summary of research

Research has shown that there is an indirect relationship between diet frequency and weight gain, which may be caused by overall increase in calorie intake. Less common eating frequency may be associated with a lower BMI index (at the same calorie level) due to exercise.

However, there is not enough evidence that the eating frequency has a good or bad effect on metabolic rate, but it is only an epidemic indicator of other habits that affect metabolic rate and weight change.

Other observations

Increased eating frequency may be beneficial for maintaining muscle mass. Compared to three meals per day with 14 meals (extreme case), despite the same amount of calories and no difference in metabolism speed, in group with less eating frequency was found higher protein oxidation of  17%(106.9±7.1 vs. 90.6±4.3 g/d). However, in obese people, intervention showed that with 4 consumed foods a day, there are no differences in weight loss, while it was consumed 80% casein in 1 food in comparison to 25% whey in 4 meals. Casein group gets over whey group in final length of attempt to retain nitrogen. This study reported higher protein oxidation and whey synthesis rate, but a trend towards nitrogen retention (muscle retention) with casein.

Do you need to eat 6 times a day to keep fast metabolism?

It is theoretically possible that consuming more meals per day improves nitrogen retention, but one recent study conducted in humans in this area shows that staying in a post-pradial state is more important (which may be created by slower protein absorption or higher frequency or both).

One of the mentioned studies reported better glycemic control than it was determined by AUC glucose at 3 meals per day compared to 14 meals. The same was observed when comparing 2 meals per day versus 12, where a lower frequency showed better glycemic control. Less frequent eating compared to more frequent food, while the amount of total daily calories is the same, seems more saturated and causes less hunger. 

Anyway, the decision about eating frequency is up to you. Do not forget to take all necessary nutrients that your body need to function properly. How many times do you eat per day? Did it help you to your desired figure? Write your answer to the comment and in case you like the article, support it with sharing. 

Sources:

[1] Bellisle F, McDevitt R, Prentice AM. - Meal frequency and energy balance. - Br J Nutr. 1997 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9155494

[2] Palmer MA, Capra S, Baines SK - Association between eating frequency, weight, and health. -Nutr Rev. 2009 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19566598

[3] Leidy HJ, Campbell WW. - The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies.J Nutr. 2011 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21123467

[4] 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 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1905998

[5] Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR. - Frequency of feeding, weight reduction and energy metabolism. - Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1993 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8383639

[6] Munsters MJ, Saris WH. - Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males. - PLoS One. 2012 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22719910

[7] Pearcey SM, De Castro JM. - Food intake and meal patterns of weight-stable and weight-gaining persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12081823

[8] Webber J, Macdonald IA. - The cardiovascular, metabolic and hormonal changes accompanying acute starvation in men and women. Br J Nutr. 1994 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8172872

[9] Mansell PI, Fellows IW, Macdonald IA. - Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. - Am J Physiol. 1990 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2405717

[10] Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, Anton SD, Ravussin E. - Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. - Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640462

[11] Zerguini Y, Dvorak J, Maughan RJ, Leiper JB, Bartagi Z, Kirkendall DT, Al-Riyami M, Junge A. - Influence of Ramadan fasting on physiological and performance variables in football players: summary of the F-MARC 2006 Ramadan fasting study. - J Sports Sci. 2008 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19085447

[12] Sadiya A, Ahmed S, Siddieg HH, Babas IJ, Carlsson M. - Effect of Ramadan fasting on metabolic markers, body composition, and dietary intake in Emiratis of Ajman (UAE) with metabolic syndrome. - Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2011 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22253539

[13] Sadiya A, Ahmed S, Siddieg HH, Babas IJ, Carlsson M. - Effect of Ramadan fasting on metabolic markers, body composition, and dietary intake in Emiratis of Ajman (UAE) with metabolic syndrome. - Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2011 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22253539

[14] Examine – https://examine.com/nutrition/do-i-need-to-eat-six-times-a-day-to-keep-my-metabolism-high/