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How often should you eat? Optimal meal frequency for a high metabolism

In last two decades, there are not many bodybuilders that eat three meals a day, whereas the typical meal intake frequency of many bodybuilders is 5 to 7 mini meals a day.

Frequent Meal Plans Increase Post-Meal Metabolism
One of the most important factor for dieting is to have consistent, regular meals plans throughout the day, skipping meals is not conducive for losing weight, in fact, the newest study out of the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society reported that meal consistency is key for obesity prevention. If you talk to any serious athlete about dieting, they will tell you that meal prep is essential for making progress. Several experimental studies have shown that erratic eating (different numbers of meals on each day) is associated with potentially deleterious alterations in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. Some dieters tend to fluctuate how many meals a day they are eating. Irregular eating can lead to weight gain and the development of obesity.

Here are two studies, that prove that consistent meal eating leads to enhanced metabolism:

Study 1
Researchers investigated the effect of irregular meal frequency on postprandial energy expenditure and anthropometric measurements in healthy women. In the study, 11 healthy weight women (18– 40 years) were studied in a randomized crossover trial with two phases of 2 weeks each. In Phase 1, participants consumed either a regular meal pattern (6 meals/day) or an irregular meal pattern (varying from 3 to 9 meals/day). In Phase 2, participants followed the alternative meal pattern to that followed in Phase 1, after a 2-weeks washout period. In the two phases, identical foods were provided to a participant in amounts designed to keep body weight constant. At the end of the 14-day study, post-meal energy expenditure after the regular meal pattern was significantly higher than at baseline after the irregular meal pattern. Eating regularly for a 14-day period significantly increases post-meal energy expenditure. So in sum, the researchers found that sticking to a consistent meal plan over the course of 2 weeks was better for a person’s metabolism as opposed to irregular eating even though the caloric intake was the same.

Another study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that regular meals spaced throughout the day enhance metabolism. Ten women participated in a randomized crossover trial. The subjects were broken up into two phases:

-Regular meal pattern – 6 meals/day
-Irregular meal pattern – varying from 3 to 9 meals/day

The researchers found that irregular meal frequency led to a lower postprandial energy expenditure and impaired thermic effect of food, sensitivity than were seen with regular meal frequency in healthy obese women; these findings were in agreement with those of an earlier study in lean women. Regular eating has beneficial effects on meal thermogenesis and may contribute to healthy weight loss.

Based on the current research, it seems that sticking to a regular meal plan with timed meals eaten at a certain time everyday has a metabolic advantage. The people that eat whenever they can in order to fit their busy schedule may be at risk for a reduced metabolism and future risk of weight gain.

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