We are all used to the standard 3 meals a day, namely breakfast, lunch and supper. But is this optimal for gaining muscle or losing fat, or even for general health? And anyway, in between these meals I’m quite sure a lot of people have some sort of small snacks, so the majority of people are really eating more than those 3 meals, but the key is, WHAT to eat.
Now I truly believe in eating up to 6 meals a day. Or rather let’s say 5 to 6 times a day. Even when trying to lose fat.
There are many reasons for this which I will cover just now. In my experience, on average eating every 3 hours seems to work well for me, but each person can adjust this according to their own needs. It could depend on things like the persons metabolism, schedule, how often and how intense they workout for etc.
Ok, why eat so often?
- Well if we look at how we function as babies, we were feeding and drinking milk much more than three times a day. If you don’t believe me ask your mother, I’m sure she will tell you how you kept her up at odd hours of the day and night! The reason for this is to ensure healthy and constant growth as a mother’s milk is jam packed full of protein, essential amino acids, carbohydrates and some fat, all essential for growth.
- As I’ve said in a previous article, protein cannot be stored by the body as protein. For example carbohydrates is converted to glucose and then stored as glycogen in our muscles, and when needed for energy (say you do some sort of physical activity) your body converts the glycogen back to glucose to use as energy. Now with protein your body does not store it (although any excess protein can still be stored as fat, so sometimes more is not always better). So the point here is that your body is constantly repairing and building your muscles, more so if you weight train often. So with that said by eating some protein every 3 hours you are constantly feeding your body which can then use those raw materials to repair and build your muscles. Then the critical thing here would be to make sure that with every meal you include some sort of protein.
- You feel fuller throughout the day and have more energy.
- Something I realised when trying to gain weight and muscle was that with just three meals a day it is very hard to consume enough calories necessary to increase in size. Each person’s body can really only utilise a specific amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat in a single sitting. This depends a lot on each individual and their body’s needs. Thus eating more meals provides you with more calories spread throughout the day, which enables the body to utilise and absorb more nutrients which can then be sufficient to build more muscle.
One thing which I have learnt the hard way, is that, unless you are being super strict with your diet for a fitness shoot or bodybuilding competition or your focus is to lose weight for instance, you should not worry so much about missing meals. Always be prepared yes, but if you can’t have your meal at its normal time, don’t stress. Just relax and eat at the soonest time you can. You are not going to die or suddenly lose muscle if you eat one meal an hour later than normal. And life is unpredictable so just don’t stress too much!