Lately, I have been answering a lot of questions from people about how many times per day they should be eating. I usually start answering them by asking them the same questions. Most people respond with the same answer: 5-6 smaller meals per day. Anyone that has been involved in fitness over the past several years would probably agree. There are several proclaimed benefits of eating small meals throughout the day. One of the most common is that it speeds up the fat burning process by increasing the metabolism. You know, the more frequently you eat the more fat you burn, right? Maybe.
Meal Frequency: To Eat Or Not To Eat
A couple of years ago, the International Society of Sports Nutrition published their position on meal frequency. One of their conclusions is that increasing the number of meals doesn’t seem to favorably impact body composition in a sedentary population (athletes are a different ball game). An additional conclusion is that increasing the number of meals does not increase resting metabolic rate. I know what you’re thinking – blasphemy, right? Obviously there are some benefits to eating smaller meals throughout the day; however, increasing resting metabolic rate doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Another common statement made by many people within the fitness industry is that skipping breakfast will make you fat. If that statement is true, then anyone who is fat will start losing weight when they start eating breakfast. I know exactly what you’re thinking – they have to eat a nutritious breakfast!
Let’s look at that a little deeper now. Say that you have a friend who is sedentary and is overweight. You tell them that they need to eat breakfast, but it has to be nutritious. Your friend takes your advice and eats a nutritious breakfast. A couple months down the road they come back to you but they are more overweight than they were before. How can this be? Simple, they didn’t change anything in their activity level, yet they ate more calories than they normally do leading to a steady weight gain. So it’s obvious that just eating a breakfast, nutritious or not, will not lead to a reduction in obesity.
Even though I write about the misconceptions of meal frequency and the over emphasis on the importance of breakfast, I still recommend that most of my clients eat in such a manner. I believe that eating breakfast, in some cases, leads to people being more conscious of their time and their health.
Ryan Andrews, from Precision Nutrition, said in his article titled “All About Breakfast”: “if you’re too busy to eat a nutritious breakfast, you’re too busy to be lean and healthy.” I generally agree with his statement.
Fitness professionals around the world will probably never completely agree on everything. It is important to learn what works best for you. What do you need to do to be the healthiest you can be? Maybe you do need to eat 6 small meals per day. Maybe you do need to start eating breakfast.
One thing for sure: you need to find out what works for your body, and stick with it.
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