When you eat a calorie restrictive diet or miss meals you are putting your body into a situation where it will start to slow your metabolism in order to conserve energy or calories. When you eat 4-5 small, healthy meals per day essentially you are telling your body to keep the fire burning, the fire being your metabolism.
It’s simply a matter of survival. When times are lean your body will slow down and conserve, when they are plentiful it will allow calories/energy to burn. Clearly, you want your body to keep burning calories at an optimal level.
That said, it is still the balance of energy in/energy out that will maintain your body in a healthy state. You’ll need to eat as per your level of activity. If you sit in an office all day you will need far fewer calories than someone who performs manual labor or a distance runner.
There has been a lot of debate about this recently, with studies showing the eating smaller meals can cause people to overeat and studies showing that eating the traditional 3 times a day cause the body to go into “starvation” mode. I believe it comes down to what works best for that client. In other words, there is no “one fits all model” to nutrition.
That being said, the only thing known for certain, whether you follow the 4-5 small meals a day or 3 meals a day, is that the more calories in, than calories out will cause weight gain.
It can help with keeping your metabolism burning more efficiently whilst improving hunger cravings by keeping blood sugar levels stable.
Sarah Murphy BSc, ACSM
Hello Troy Lebehen,
This way of eating is supposed to keep the body doing everything already mentioned like a nice steady fire instead of the extremes of an inferno or dying flames which may cause other problems.
Also, as already mentioned, this is still being debated because everyone is so different; this is only a general guideline.
People who work with registered dietitians will get the best results, as their diet will be tailored to their specific needs.
NAPS 2 B Fit