Kick-Start Your Metabolism: Part 1

An easy-to-follow method to lose fat and gain lean muscle.

Kick-Start Your Metabolism: Part 1
Kevin Horton


How many meals? The first step to reigniting a stagnant metabolism is determining how many meals you’ll need daily to succeed. Start by looking at your daily schedule and establish the beginning and ending points of your day: What time do you wake up and what time do you go to bed? Between those times, you must now determine exactly how many meals you’ll need to keep you going from the beginning of your day to the end of your day. This time line is extremely important. If you’re a person who rises early, but goes to bed late—you typically will need more meals in your daily plan than a person who rises early and goes to bed early. Your plan must also be adapted to your work schedule, training schedule, and personal schedule. Most people will fall in the range of needing 5–7 meals daily.

You must also factor in your natural body type. For instance, are you a hard gainer? Do you have a tendency to put on muscle easily? If you’re a person who naturally carries a higher percentage of body fat, you will more than likely fall into the five-meal range. A competitive bodybuilder or person wanting to put on lean muscle will usually fall into the 6–7 daily meal range. Again, the amount of meals will depend not only on body type, but your personal goals and your daily schedule.

How long between meals? Once you’ve determined the number of meals you’ll need to consume on a daily basis, you’ll now need to calculate the spacing of your meals. As an example, let’s say we’ve decided upon six daily meals—the next step in the process is to arrange the spacing, but how long should you go between meals? I’ve found that in most cases, no matter what body type a person is, approximately three hours between meals works very well, and I'll tell you why.

Although your food almost instantaneously reaches your stomach once you’ve chewed and swallowed it, the body has not yet initiated the breakdown and digestion process. Once your food enters the stomach, it usually remains there between 2–4 hours. During this time, the breakdown process begins, readying the body for the digestion and excretion process. Factors such as portion size of the meal, fat content of the foods eaten at the meal, and the types of foods eaten will dictate exactly how long your meal stays in your stomach, but with the norm ranging between 2–4 hours, placing your meals three hours apart is a sound estimate. I also like to tell my clients they should begin feeling like they could eat again within 30–40 minutes of the next meal. For instance, if you eat your first meal of the day at 8 a.m., around 10:20–10:30 a.m., you should begin feeling like you could eat again and the onset of stomach emptiness should occur around that time frame. With this in mind by 11 a.m., you should be ready to eat your second meal and stay on track with your schedule.

If you find that at the three-hour point you still feel full, or that you could wait longer to eat, you’ll more than likely need to adjust the portion size of your meal. If you take in too much food at any certain meal, not only will it throw off your eating schedule, but you’ll begin overlapping meals in the stomach—as it’ll take longer to break down excess amounts of food, and this will slow down the digestion process, as well as your metabolism.

If altering your portion size still leaves you feeling like you could use more distance between your meals, you may naturally have both a slower-acting digestive tract and slower metabolism. As previously discussed, you definitely don’t want to continue decreasing your portions, as this will quickly take you back to starvation mode. As long as your portion size isn’t too large, I suggest spacing your meals around 3½ hours apart—but no more than four hours apart. In the beginning this may be better suited to your schedule and your stomach. However, once you’re on this schedule for a while and your metabolism begins balancing back out, you may find that you can decrease the time between meals to three hours. Just as with your physique, tailoring your nutritional program and schedule is a constant work in progress, so it may take a bit of tweaking here and there to find the right balance.

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