Mini-meals and Metabolism
You may have heard that eating small, more frequent meals will boost your metabolic rate, help you burn more calories, and ultimately lead to weight loss.
But, there's no clear consensus if it's true or not. Planning to eat in a more structured way may prove beneficial, especially if you tend to skip meals and eat irregularly. However, a downside to eating frequently is that you have more chances to overeat. And, after all, the total number of calories you eat in a day is ultimately what matters.
As We Age
Can eating smaller, more frequent meals prevent you from gaining weight as you grow older? Apparently yes if you watch your portion sizes.
A recent study compared the fat-burning capabilities of young women in their 20s to older women in their 70s and 80s. The test subjects were given meals of 250, 500, and 1,000 calories. Both the younger and older groups were able to burn fat efficiently (called fat oxidation) after snacks or meals of 250 or 500 calories.
At 1,000 calories, however, the older women were unable to burn fat as efficiently as the young group. Large meals, then, may be more likely to turn into fat as we age. For this group, smaller meals of approximately 250 to 500 calories per meal will be appropriate.
The Bottom Line
Portion size is quite important in weight control. The total calories you take in versus the calories used determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain weight. If you've had an erratic eating pattern in the past, planned meals will probably help you choose wisely during the day and avoid overeating at night. Just remember that at the end of the day, the calories you've taken in overall are what counts.
- Farshchi HR, Talor MA, Macdonald IA. Beneficial metabolic effects of regular meal frequency on dietary thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity, and fasting lipid profiles in healthy obese women. Am J Clin Nutr 2005, 81: 16-24.
- Parks, EJ, McCrory, MA. When to eat and how often? Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 81:3-4.
- Roberts SB, Rosenberg I. Nutrition and aging: changes in the regulation of energy metabolism with aging. Physiol Rev 2006; 86(2):651-67.
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