Will eating frequent meals help me lose weight? (Updated)

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Today, we dive into one of the longest standing claims about losing weight. No matter which new fad diet pops up, you’ll always have someone say, “Just start having several small meals a day. Trust me, it works!” And it does sound plausible. The “logic” people usually put behind it is that it’s easier for your body to digest small portions, plus it boosts your metabolism every time you eat. Boosting your metabolism apparently means your body burns fat at a higher rate than usual. As Broscience bros like to say, “Fuel the fire, bro”! But is this really what happens? Fortunately, this isn’t much of a mystery, so let’s dig in!

First, what is this “metabolism”?

Simply, it’s the cumulation of the all the processes in your body that keep you alive. It’s how the body breaks down food to get at the nutrition so it can grow, repairs itself, and runs all your organs. Now, we have to learn a few words before we move on. Some you’ll know. Some, not so much (probably): 

  1. BMR: Your metabolism is measured as your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is the number of calories you burn when you’re not doing anything. You know, like your ideal Sunday. Just lying in bed and watching Netflix….and, y’know, chilling. If you want to figure out what your BMR is, there are lots of online calculators.

  2. Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): This is the total number of calories you actually burn in a day when you’re not chilling and watching Netflix. Like going for a walk, playing with your kids/dog, doing the dishes, cleaning your door handle. That stuff.

Get on with it! How do I lose weight?

How much weight you lose is dependant on how many calories you’re eating through the day, minus your total daily energy expenditure. If you get a negative number, you’re on the right track. And if you get a positive number, you’ll have to cut down the calories a bit. It’s as simple as that. It’s called Energy Balance. And that’s what you should be paying attention to when it comes to losing weight. Countless scientific studies have shown this again and again and again. You just need to be consuming fewer calories than you are spending. That is a bit over-simplistic, but that’s the foundation of weight loss. Watch this blog for the details in upcoming posts.

How does that work?

Let’s say your TDEE is 2,200 calories a day while you’re eating 2,500, you will end up gaining weight. If you eat food worth 2,200 calories, you’ll stay the same. And if you eat less, you’ll lose weight. Boom. Now we can go home. No, wait! There’s more!

Tracking your calories

First, If you want to know how to track your calories, try out MyFitnessPal. They have apps for both iOS and Android, and they are free!

Whatever happened to “Speeding up your metabolism”

Going back to the beginning, do we really need to speed up our metabolism? Is speeding up your metabolism the only way to lose weight? Or at least the most effective? Short answer: Yes. Speeding up your metabolism will help you lose weight faster and keep it off. But do frequent meals help you do this? Not really. Your metabolism does speed up whenever you eat. But that’s for a very good reason. You’re eating. Your metabolism has to go up to digest and metabolise all the food. It’s like saying you should drive more to use your petrol and keep adding more petrol each time you drive. It’s obvious. And stupid. Why the hell would you want to waste petrol like that?! Okay, I digress. But yes, food is fuel for your body. And we need to deplete as much of it as we can so we can lose weight. The fun bit is, there are things you should be doing other than eating to speed up your metabolism and increase your TDEE. Let me give you 3 ways you can speed up your metabolism:

  1. Aerobic exercise: If you enjoy walking, running, cycling or swimming, these all come under aerobic exercises, otherwise called Cardio. You’ll need to do at least half an hour of these, 5 days a week, for it to be effective. The only downsides to these kinds of exercises are that they can be a bit boring and monotonous, and the fat you burn is limited only to while you’re working out.

  2. Strength training: The big plus is, you continue burning fat at a higher rate long after you stop working out - for 36 to 48 hours! Doing weight training also builds up lots of muscle tissue, which is hungry for fat even when you’re doing nothing. You know what that means? A faster metabolism! Make sure you do every body part at least once a week and get a day or two of rest in between. Ladies, you don’t need to worry about looking bulky or manly. You won’t look that muscular easily, you just don’t have the male hormones for it. Yup. Testicles make men muscular (and bald). True story.

  3. Stay active: Increasing your level of activity through the day, like playing with your kids, standing more and taking the stairs at work, also helps increase your overall TDEE.

Conclusion

Okay, so that’s a lot of information. Let’s wrap this up with the key points:

  1. Instead of counting meals, count your calories. Calculate your TDEE and cut down 500 calories from your diet. We’ll do a dedicated article on tracking your eating really soon so follow this blog so you don’t miss it.

  2. Increase your daily activity levels and start working out. Do a combination of cardio and weights too.

If you have any questions, put them down there in the comments. Till next time, be rationable.

Further Reading & References