A “fast metabolism”. A body that burns calories quickly and efficiently around the clock, sculpting and maintaining a lean trim physique, whether you’re working out or chilling out in front of the T.V. Just the idea of that makes people salivate.
Meanwhile, the dreaded “slow metabolism” is what people complain about suffering from far more often, so that even the cleanest diet and well-designed training program seem ineffective. A slow metabolism is why it’s possible for a person to keep frantically slashing more and more calories while pounding for longer and longer on the treadmill, and to still be left frustrated with no results.
There are tons of different theories on the internet about the best ways to speed up metabolism. But why rely on theories when you can see real people do it in real life? When in doubt, look to the professionals. See what they do, do as they do.
So what’s the secret that competitive fitness models swear by, and religiously use to transform their bodies into human food incinerators that burn through huge quantities of food at alarming rates before photo shoots and competitions?
It’s a simple yet incredibly effective method of simply eating small, frequent meals – one approximately every three or four hours. This form of meal timing, when combined with the right food choices, turns their bodies into fat-burning machines that are cranked 24/7, even while they sleep.
Why More Meals Burn More Fat
Why does eating small frequent meals have such an incredible effect on your metabolism and obtaining the body you’re after faster than three traditional square meals?
It’s because fueling your body on a consistent rhythm with properly constructed meals allows your body to build and maintain muscle. And the longer and more consistently you practice small, frequent meal timing, the more muscle tissue you’ll develop. And the more muscle tissue you’ll develop, the faster your metabolism becomes – it’s a positive reinforcing cycle that spins you closer and closer to the lean body you’re working for.
This certainly doesn’t mean that eating three properly balanced meals a day with a good workout program can’t get you some good results. And certainly you know at least one person who completely violates the meal frequency rule by regularly skipping breakfast every day, scarfing down Big Mac combos for dinner at ten o’clock at night, and still manages to remain “skinny” (although that definitely paves the way to a typical case of “skinny fat”).
However, for the typical person, dividing the day into five (or even six) balanced meals a day can be a major metabolic game changer, and it all boils down to five simple rules of physiology.
5 Reasons Why Small Frequent Meals Turbo-Charge Your Metabolism
- Its takes about three hours to completely digest a meal.
If you’re getting about 8 hours of sleep a night (if you don’t, that’s what you should be shooting for), then that leaves 16 waking hours in the day for eating. But if eating more meals seems to be more effective for toning up the body and losing more fat, than shouldn’t we be reaching for the stars with 8 meals a day? Or 10 meals a day?
Turns out there’s a tipping point, and that’s because it takes about 2.5 – 3 hours to digest a properly portioned meal. Piling more food on top of undigested food makes it harder for your body to properly and completely break down, assimilate and utilize the nutrients from your meal. Eating at regular intervals allows for more efficient utilization of vitamins, minerals and virtually every other micronutrient and macronutrient. That’s why the ideal and most effective way to provide a constant stream of energy for your body to fuel muscle building while burning fat is one meal every three hours.
That adds up to approximately 5 small meals a day, which has been found to be the most ideal for women, while 6 meals a days was found to be more ideal for men. Weight loss meal planning becomes a simple matter or taking the total number of daily calories you should be eating in one day to lose weight, and dividing that by the number of meals you plan to eat. That tells you the average number of calories you should be eating per meal.
- Frequent meals prevent binges and control cravings.
You woke up late, didn’t have time for breakfast before you had to rush out to work, so you didn’t get a chance to eat anything until lunch time. A healthy lunch consisting of a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat with a banana allows you to make it through until the end of your work day, but you’re ravenous by 7:00pm and scarf down an entire plate of pasta. Then you crash later in the night and start to crave something sweet – a package of cookies and a glass of milk hit the spot, and you go to bed. Doesn’t sound so terrible, right? So what if you skipped breakfast, as long as you still managed to stay within your dietary calorie limit for the rest of the day, right?
Wrong! The inner workings of your metabolism are more than just a simple numbers game. It turns out that it’s not just how much you’re eating throughout the day, but also how often you’re eating it that instructs your body how to handle and anticipate the calories you feed it, and tells your body whether it can use up what it’s given, or whether it needs to store it.
Allowing your body to go 18 hours without food – from dinner the night before to lunch the next day – triggers off hormonal responses that warn your body to go into fat storage mode, and to resort to cannibalizing your muscle tissue instead. This causes muscle loss and metabolic slow-down. This leaves you famished and prompts you to eat too much at your next meal, often more than what your body can handle in one sitting.
Moreover, this pattern of starving and stuffing sets you up for serious cravings at night, which is when all the wrong foods for your metabolism – cookies, chips, ice cream, etc. – like to come out to play. In the long run, this type of diet is a sure-fire way to slow down your metabolism, lose muscle and gain body fat.
On the other hand, the same number of calories spread over 5 meals throughout the day increases your energy, accelerates muscle growth, speeds up your metabolism and burns fat. Frequent eating can actually allow you to consume up to 50% more calories without storing fat.
- Frequent meals help maintain high energy levels and regular blood sugar.
While changes in your body composition will take place slowly and steadily from small frequent meal eating, you’ll start the notice the major boost in your energy levels after adopting this eating pattern pretty early on.
That’s because, when carbohydrates are eaten, they get digested and absorbed into your bloodstream in the form of blood sugar (or glucose), which triggers your pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. One of insulin’s jobs is to transport the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells to be used for energy or to be stored for later use.
The amount of insulin released corresponds to the amount and type of carbohydrate being consumed. When small amounts of carbs and insulin-stimulating foods are consumed, there’s a small output of insulin. When a lot of carbs are consumed, or the wrong types of carbs are consumed, or carbs are consumed out of balance with other macronutrients, there is a large output of insulin, which removes the sugar from your bloodstream quickly and leads to an energy crash, fatigue, intense hunger and cravings.
Frequent eating with the right type of carbs combined with lean proteins and small amounts of healthy fats will stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels, preventing unstable energy spikes and crashes. It also keeps your muscle glycogen levels up, which gives you plenty of energy to fuel exercise and to get through your day feeling great and in good spirits.
- Frequent meals help promote muscle growth.
The high insulin levels that follow the consumption of too many of the wrong carbs are definitely bad news for weight loss.
However, a steady flow of moderate amounts of insulin is necessary for feeding muscle growth. Insulin is a powerful anabolic hormone because one of its major jobs is to shuttle glucose and amino acids into muscle cells, where they can be used for recovery and muscle growth. By eating small meals containing lean healthy protein with some complex carbohydrates, you are providing your body with a steady flow of amino acids that fuel muscle growth while also triggering a moderate amount of insulin output that delivers these precious amino acids into the muscle cells. This stimulates muscle maintenance and growth, which stimulates your metabolism and boosts it up to rip-roaring speeds.
- Eating small frequent meals helps reduce fat storage.
Eating small meals more often helps to prevent you from over consuming calories through simple portion control and appetite control.
When you consume a meal, the food is digested and directed into all cells that require immediate energy. Once the cells have received all the energy they need, the rest is stored in the form of glycogen in the muscles and liver. However, there only so much glycogen your body can store. Everything else beyond this limit is stored as body fat.