Effect of Meal Frequency on Total Energy Expenditure

As discussed earlier, the three components of energy expenditure are BMR, thermogenesis, and physical activity. For meal frequency to have an influence on energy expenditure, it must affect one or more of these components. BMR (which represents 60-75% of energy expenditure in sedentary individuals) is not known to be influenced by meal frequency. Much the same can be said for thermogenesis, for which extensive research has failed to demonstrate a link between feeding frequency and DIT. It is reasonable and logical to expect that any difference between frequent and infrequent meal-eating patterns would be seen most clearly during the postprandial period when food has just been eaten, where the rate of ingestion of nutrients may alter EE and fuel storage.

Although much research has been carried out on the effects of meal frequency on total energy expenditure, few studies have isolated the physical activity component per se. Greater attention has been paid to the relationship between meal frequency and physical activity with regard to the performance of elite athletes because the manipulation of the meal pattern can potentially be used as a tool to achieve optimal performance. Because carbohydrate requirements in elite athletes are high and endogenous gly-cogen reserves are limited, athletes undertaking prolonged strenuous exercise seek to maximize carbohydrate availability at all times.

Irrespective of the above, the key determinant of feeding frequency's overall effect on energy balance is whether it has an impact on 24-h energy expenditure, where energy intake is fixed in content and composition and physical activity is kept constant. Numerous studies have been carried out to investigate this, and all have found that no relationship exists. The majority of these studies used either direct or indirect calori-metry or doubly labeled water in their measurements, both of which are highly reliable energy expenditure measurement techniques.

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