Busting Silly Headlines – "Eat frequently to boost metabolism"
I’m super excited to introduce my new segment: Busting Silly Headlines. In these pieces, I will be debunking some of the most prevailing myths in the health and wellness space as well as calling out more recent headlines that make me want to eye-roll my way into oblivion.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the first silly headline: eat frequently to boost your metabolism.
We’ve all heard it before, that we should eat every 2-3 hours to “rev up” our metabolism.
First of all, you might be wondering, what even is metabolism? It is simply a way to describe all the reactions and chemical processes involved in keeping you alive. Your body uses up energy (from the food you eat as well as from the energy stored as fat and glycogen) to keep your cells functioning, lungs breathing, heart beating, brain thinking…your metabolism is movin’ and groovin’ even when you’re sleeping or binge-watching Tiger King.
Of course, the more you’re actively doing at any given time, the higher your metabolism is in that moment. Believe it or not, this includes digestion! It is called the thermic effect of food. Basically, when you eat something, your body goes through an arduous process of releasing chemicals and digestive enzymes, breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and shuttling them throughout your body and into cells. As you can imagine, this takes up more energy than if you are just sitting there in a fasted state.
The origin of the “eat frequently” myth is probably pretty clear at this point. It is thought that if you grazed throughout the day, your metabolism would just stay higher the whole time and you would therefore burn more calories. Sounds reasonable; totally makes sense.
But does it?
It is important to consider that the thermic effect of food only accounts for about 10% of your total calorie burn. For a lot of people, eating smaller meals just means never feeling truly full or satisfied. As a result, they may actually end up eating more than if they would if they just ate three larger meals. Study after study has shown that the total number of calories eaten in a day matters more than the frequency or number of meals.
The take-away here is to listen to your body.
If you enjoy eating and feel physically and mentally satisfied when you eat frequently, then you do you boo! On the other hand, if you feel better eating a few larger meals, then have peace of mind in knowing that you are not “slowing down” your metabolism. You may have fewer “spikes” in metabolism, but these spikes will be larger!