"You can only burn fat if you keep stoking your metabolic fire and eat 6 times per day!"
"If you don't eat breakfast you'll get fat!"
"Fasting will cause you to get hit by a bus and pirates to kill your family!"
Ok, round two. This time it actually looks a liiiiiittle bit more plausible at first glance; even if it's recently been proven to be little more than a load of poo. The reasoning behind this particularly hard to kill myth is partially sound, but it is held together by one big misconception.
Propagators of this myth are aware of the Thermic Effect of Food; or in layman's terms, the fact that digesting food not only provides your body with energy, it also uses it, as odd as it sounds.
The logic behind the myth is that the more often you eat, the higher your metabolism. Great news for constant grazers, right? I’m afraid to say that's wrong! You see, the actual logic is that the more you eat, the higher the spike in metabolism. The amount of calories and nutrients consumed is directly tied to the magnitude of the effect.
Eating your calories and nutrients in 2-3 large meals per day will give you large boosts, which gradually taper off until the next meal.
If you spread all your calories across loads of small meals, you keep your metabolism trundling along at a constantly higher level than your basal metabolic rate by minimizing the tapering off period. However, you’re not just avoiding the tapering off, but also forgoing the big boosts granted by big meals. So it evens out.
The long and short of it is: Your average metabolic rate over 24 hours is going to be the exact same in each case. [Source]
It would, however, be remiss of me not to look at the many people that swear by regular feeds throughout the day, and even exhibit good results from the approach. Here, as ever, the old adage “Correlation does not necessarily equal causality” is applicable. The people that make a conscious effort to eat regularly are far more likely to be making conscious and enlightened food choices; they are losing weight because what they eat when they do eat is healthier.
Not because they’ve “hacked” their metabolism.
So make sure you're giving your body the right stuff, and quit worrying so much about when!
Next time I'll be having a look at a biggie: Breakfast.
This post intends to encourage a more critical approach to nutrition, and hopefully spark an interest in the science behind it. It is not a peer reviewed journal article. Our understanding of the body is developing constantly, and this post was written with the materials currently available at time of writing. Should you find there to be any glaring mistakes, I would appreciate an email to chat about them!