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"Don’t Believe the Headlines“ Eating 5 to 6 small meals a day stimulates metabolism

LifeHakx - The Answer to " Eating 5 to 6 small meals a day stimulates metabolism."

By Eva Wisenbeck 19/01/2020

True or False? Eating 5 to 6 small meals a day stimulates metabolism.

Truth: Eating constantly does not help your metabolism and may interfere with burning fat.

A little 'however' is that if you are dealing with hormone imbalances you might have to avoid further stress on your body and one way is to eat little and often.

Solution: Give intermittent fasting a try and long-term it may be better to cycle to suit your situation and body.

Research is still young in the area of intermittent fasting. Well I say that, there is of course also very very very old, often linked to religious ceremonies, uses of fasting. However, when it comes to the current popularisation of Intermittent Fasting (IF) there are still varying opinions.

Some say it is highly beneficial, although not for everyone, again, it does depend on your situation and goal.

Some say restricting your eating to a time window (Time Restricted Eating = TRE) is a great way to do IF, but do you skip breakfast or dinner? Research is still out… Last few years in these circles it was common to skip breakfast now some are swaying to skipping dinner as even more beneficial and working better with our internal circadian rhythm.

I might sound like I’m trying to put you off?! I promise I am not. I just want to make sure that you are ok with, as with everything, understanding that there are no “silver bullets” that will fix everything for everyone!

I shall explain some of the variants of IF and the best thing is, if you are curious, to simply try it out. See how you feel. You are the expert on you and your body, never forget that. No matter what that fancy celebrity or your neighbour says.

So what are some of health benefits reported in research?

Fasting has been shown to help with weight loss and losing dangerous inflammatory belly fat.

And it can reduce insulin levels and blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce the risk of diabetes.

It can also help the brain function better by clearing out dangerous proteins, and benefiting neurons in a way that protects memory and learning.

Fasting also supports Human Growth Hormone (HGH) production, cellular repair, positive gene expression changes and more.

There are of course caveats which go without saying (I hope by now!)…

One big one is that when you do eat, you still need to eat well, that is healthy foods that are good for you and your body. Fasting and then binging on ice cream and french fries is not going to get you anywhere from a health nor a weight point of view.

There are 3 main types of Intermittent Fasting, time-restricted eating (TRE), alternate-day fasting, whole-day fasting, and of course multiple variations thereof.

Time restricted eating - For this type of IF, you shrink the window of time during which you eat each day. Typically, that involves extending the duration of your regular overnight fast, to anywhere from 12 to 20 hours, by skipping either breakfast or dinner. However, you can choose to have three full meals, just within a compressed time block. One popular version of this approach is the 16:8 diet: as you might have guessed, it involves fasting for 16 hours and compressing your eating into an eight-hour time slot

Alternate day fasting – The 5:2 diet is a great example of this, two days of near-fasting, consuming 500 to 600 calories each of those days, and five days of normal (healthy) food intake.

Whole day fasting - This type of IF is just as it sounds! Fasting for 24 hours for as little as once or twice a month or as much as once or twice per week.

Chris Kresser says the following on fasting “Of course, you don’t have to follow any of these approaches exactly. Intermittent fasting can be as formal or informal as you like. As my Revolution Health Radio cohost, Steve, and I discussed on an episode, you may not feel like fasting in times of stress, or you may choose to interject IF more heavily into your life after overeating during holidays. I often fast when I’m flying or think I’m coming down with a cold. In this way, IF is more lifestyle than diet. Unless you follow the 5:2 approach, you technically don’t count calories or even restrict them. Although, to get the health benefits from IF discussed below, if you’re not already eating a healthy ancestral diet, you will need to change what you eat as well as when you eat."

Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple says the following 14 scenarios are very suitable to giving IF a try. For full details read his article, link at the bottom.

1. You Are Intractably, Morbidly Obese

2. You Want the Benefits Of Ketosis Without Having To “Go Keto”

3. You’re Otherwise Quite Lean, Active, and Low-Stress and Just Have a Little Bit To Lose

4. You Want a Buffer Against Degenerative Diseases

5. You Want To Lean Out and Gain Muscle At the Same Time

6. You’re Recovering From Major Gut Issues

7. You Want To Control Blood Glucose Levels

8. You Only Have Access To Terrible Food

9. You Can’t Stop Snacking

10. You’re Willing To Try an Unconventional Recovery Technique

11. You’re Trying To Avoid Jet Lag

12. You’re a Shift Worker

13. You’re Undergoing Chemotherapy

14. You’ve Got a Massive Feast Coming Up

So what can and can’t you drink and eat whilst in a fasting state?

You won’t be surprised to hear that it does depend a bit

on your body and metabolism and also experts have

varying answers. However, keeping it simple, you will

be playing it fairly safe with, of course, water, and coffee and tea and even bone broth/ bouillon.

You can even in most cases add in a small amount of

cream, mct oil or butter.

On the eating front the answer is a resounding, nope,

nada, nichts, nothing!

And what if you just really want to do some simple tweaks for better health?

Well here are some brilliant guidelines from Sarah Ballantyne aka The Paleo Mom:

” A variety of studies show that avoiding eating within 4 to 5 hours of going to bed at night improves sleep quality. In addition, a 12-hour feeding window (say 7am to 7pm) is associated with beneficial health outcomes likely due to synchronizing eating with our circadian rhythms.

Combined with the research showing metabolic benefits to eating breakfast, this makes a good case for eating a balanced and complete breakfast soon after waking (say, within the first hour), three nutrient-dense meals per day (spacing meals 4-5 hours apart is great for leptin and ghrelin regulation), and making sure dinner is regularly eaten on the early side and avoiding evening snacking.”

This is based on a wonderful article by the great Dr Josh Axe and his roundup of “The 11 Largest Nutrition Lies In the Media” for more details and links to the research papers and studies please look here:

If you are curious and would like more information about the whole Intermittent Fasting debate and the latest research here are some great resources.

Mark Hyman “An intro to fasting”

Mark Hyman “Short-Term Fasting for Long-Term Health”

Chris Kresser “Intermittent Fasting: The Science Behind the Trend”

Chris Kresser “RHR: Is Intermittent Fasting Good For You?”

David Perlmutter “Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Your Brain and Body”

Chris Kresser “How to Limit Restrictive Eating and Develop a Healthy Food Mindset”

Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple “14 Scenarios When Fasting Might Be Your Best Approach”

Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple “The Definitive Guide To What Breaks a Fast”

Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple “When Does Fasting Cross the Line?”

David Jockers “Best Intermittent Fasting Strategies & How to Fast”

David Jockers “5 Healing Benefits of Intermittent Fasting”

Kresser Insitute “Rebooting the System: The Benefits of a Fasting Mimicking Diet”


Meet The Team


Eva Wisenbeck

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Eva Wisenbeck is a Co-Presenter of LifeHakx & a Wellness Coach

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Mary Collins

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Mary Collins is the Creator and Presenter of LifeHakx Media.

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