Food digestion is one of the ways your body burns calories. While in theory it would seem that eating more frequently would help you burn more fat, research says otherwise. Talk to your doctor to discuss healthy ways for you to burn fat.
Calorie Burning Basics
Your body burns calories in three ways: basal metabolic rate or BMR, food digestion and activity. BMR and activity make up the bulk of your calorie-burning metabolism.
The BMR is the number of calories your body needs to maintain normal body functions such as breathing, heart rate and brain activity. It accounts for 60 percent to 70 percent of your daily calorie needs.
Activity not only includes exercise such as your daily run, but also your everyday activities such as brushing your teeth and walking to your car. Activity makes up 20 percent to 30 percent of your metabolic rate.
Thermic Effect of Food
Food digestion, also referred to as the thermic effect of food, is the smallest component of your metabolism, accounting for 10 percent of your daily calorie needs. It is the number of calories your body burns digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the food you eat.
The amount of energy required to burn the major nutrients in food also differs. It takes more energy to digest protein than it does to digest carbs or fat.
Research on Meal Frequency
Eating more often may not help you burn more fat. A study published in 2010 in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated the effects on weight of meal frequency -- three meals a day versus six meals a day -- in a group of obese adults eating the same number of calories. The researchers found no difference in weight or fat loss between the two groups after the eight-week study period.
Another study, published in 2007 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigated the effect of eating just one meal a day compared to three meals a day on weight in a group of healthy, normal-weight adults. The study found no significant change in weight between the two groups at the end of the eight-week study. However, it noted a decrease in fat mass in the group eating one meal a day, but also an increase in hunger and blood pressure.
Diet and Exercise
To get your body to burn fat to aid in weight loss, you need to alter your calorie equation by creating a negative calorie balance. This means eating fewer calories than your body needs, increasing the number of calories your body burns through planned exercise or doing both.
Eating every two hours may not help you burn more fat, but it may aid in hunger control when reducing your overall calorie intake to promote fat loss.
- ExRx.net: Energy Balance
- British Journal of Nutrition: Increased Meal Frequency Does Not Promote Greater Weight Loss in Subjects Who Were Prescribed an 8-Week Equi-Energetic Energy-Restricted Diet
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: A Controlled Trial of Reduced Meal Frequency Without Caloric Restriction in Healthy, Normal-Weight, Middle-Aged Adults
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight