The Myth: Eating small, frequent meals will boost your metabolism
True or False? FALSE.
Got your mother’s slow mo-tabolism? Trust me, I feel ya. Everyone is constantly looking for ways to speed up their metabolism to burn fat faster and be one of those people who eats everything and gains nothing.
Pop culture shoves this idea of eating small, frequent meals in our face and it’s not true.
Eating small, frequent meals keeps you from over-eating. This prevents you from sitting down for a large meal and overloading your body’s production of insulin. (Insulin inhibits fat breakdown). However, insulin is still produced when you eat smaller meals, and it will always be elevated if you are consistently snacking on food (even if it’s healthy food).
By waiting in between meals (and not snacking), the production of insulin stops, allowing fat breakdown to occur.
You might be saying, “Well, I snack on small meals and lost weight doing it!” First, that’s AWESOME. If eating like that works for you and helps you stay in shape, keep it up! However, it is not increasing your metabolism. You’re likely just losing weight because you are eating less food and less total calories every day.
Think of it this way: a meal at a restaurant is typically almost 1,000 calories. If you show up hungry, you will likely end up eating the whole thing (plus some bread before) which is over 1,000 calories. Eating a full meal just twice a day can add up to over 2,000 calories (more than the average person needs!). By snacking on smaller, low calorie foods throughout the day you never really feel hungry enough to eat a big meal.
The main determinant of metabolism is genetics. Your genes determine a larger part of your metabolism, and that is unfortunately something you cannot control. But, there is one way (and only one) to change your metabolism: building muscle.
Lean muscle mass burns calories faster than fat. That is why people with more lean muscle (athletes, men, etc) need more calories than people with a higher percentage of body fat. As you age, your metabolism slows down which mirrors the decrease in lean muscle mass that accompanies aging.
(This is why I am a firm believer in strength exercises for women!)
You don’t need to be “buff” or anything crazy, but building up toned muscles increases your metabolism and helps burn more calories naturally. Simply running, cycling, or doing cardio exercises won’t do it. You need the added strength workout to build up your lean muscle mass and burn more fat to lose weight or maintain your shape as you age.
My Rx for boosting metabolism: 15 minutes daily or 20 minutes 3-4 times per week of weight lifting (even just 8-10 lbs) or what I call “body lifting” including push ups, sit ups, or squats using your own body weight for resistance. Even some yoga poses that build strength will work!