Your metabolism, the rate at which your body burns calories, is influenced by many factors. Your genetic makeup, sex, bodyfat composition, and age all play a role in how effective your body burns calories. As it has been widely publicized, the case for breaking up your meals into smaller portions to combat overeating and weight gain is quite strong. I believe that THE most effective way to stimulate your metabolism is to eat 5-6 nutritionally sound small meals per day on a consistent basis. The benefits are numerous and apply to those trying to lose bodyfat as well as to those trying to gain lean muscle mass.
Some of the most important benefits are as follows:
- Frequent meals regulate blood sugar and insulin levels which helps maintain constant energy. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar is caused by the overproduction of the hormone insulin and will cause intense hunger, cravings, and fatigue. By eating small, frequent meals, you can avoid this and continue to eat sensibly.
- Frequent meals will help prevent binges and control cravings. If you are eating every 3 hours or so, you are certainly less likely to have these cravings which usually leads to poor choices.
- Frequent meals helps to increase metabolism due to thermogenesis, which is the process of your body burning calories in order to digest your food. Protein foods have the highest thermic effect and your body will burn more calories to digest these foods. Fats and refined carbohydrates have a very low thermic effect.
- Frequent meals allow you to exercise portion control. Your body can process only so much food at one time and anything not able to be used will be stored as fat.
Here are a few important things to remember:
- Try to eat every 3 hours. It will be difficult at first and you will be eating more than you are probably used to. It will become a habit soon enough. Never hungry, never full.
- Do not miss a meal. Missing meals will slow down your metabolism, which means fewer calories burned. Missing meals will also elicit your body’s ‘starvation response’. Your body does not understand that you simply missed a meal or 2, it thinks that it starving and will attempt to preserve as many calories as possible. This will effectively assure that all calories taken in will be stored as fat. Not good.
- Make breakfast your largest meal of the day and your dinner the smallest. The reason being is that you are less likely to store breakfast as fat because your body has been fasting overnight. A large dinner will more likely be stored as fat since your metabolism is slowest while you are sleeping.
Eating every few hours is not easy and some will find it almost unbearable. However, it is extremely effective, so I suggest that you give it your best shot. You can even start by adding 1 additional meal per day and work up to it.
Here are few tips for a successful eating plan:
- Prepare your food for the next day the night before.
- Cook in bulk. There are many foods that will last up to a week in your refrigerator.
- Plan your day in advance. Pack your food in a cooler and carry it with you.
- Try to eat at the same times each day. Your body will get used to this and it will be easier for you.
- If traveling, plan ahead.
- Use meal replacement shakes if need be. If you find that cooking 5 or 6 meals is just too much, use a high quality meal replacement. Just mix it with skim milk or water. These are especially useful if you are trying to add muscle mass.