MealFrequency and Timing
Like most fitness professionals I get a ton of emails and Facebook messages every week
asking fitness related questions. I personally love it! I really enjoy going
through my emails helping people out. That is why I am going to start making
weekly Q and A videos where I answer a question on camera for everyone to see.
Hopefully this enlightens the people who might have had the same questions but
just didn’t want to ask them!
I got a question this week on a topic I wanted to write about for a while so I figured
it was worthy of a video and article. The topic is meal frequency.
When talking about meal frequency I feel there are two major points of concern. One, most importantly
figuring out what the optimal time between meals is and two, what is the
benefits of consuming more or less meals.
I think everyone has heard the 2-3 hour recommendation regarding how often one should
eat. Most people rationalize this by saying more frequent meals leads to a
faster metabolism. This however is false. More frequent meals does not really do
anything to speed up the metabolism. Metabolic rate is not affected. In my
opinion this is not even the correct argument to make regarding meal frequency.
The real argument surrounding meal frequency is around maximizing protein
Following a meal containing protein, levels of essential amino acids are elevated leading
to protein synthesis. Now there are a lot of factors that go into building new
muscle tissue but maximizing protein synthesis (mps) is very important. Most
studies show a peak in protein synthesis around the 90 minute mark following a
meal and a return to baseline levels around 120-180 minutes even though levels
of essential amino acids are still elevated. Essentially what this says is
there would be no reason to elevate levels of EAAs in the form of a meal within
this time period. Anywhere from 3-6 hours between meals may be optimal. I would
not recommend consuming meals under 3 hours or over 6 hours apart. However,
like I said earlier hitting the desired macronutrient total is most important. Consuming
an EAA/BCAA and or CHO supplement between meals has been shown to prolong
(mps). Therefore this can be beneficial to include into your nutrition protocol.
During a bulking phase you can supplement between meals with 5g BCAA combined
with 20-40g CHOs and during a cut just stick to the BCAAs.
To read more about this topic and how supplementing with either a EAA or CHO supplement can
help check this out http://www.jorntrommelen.com/energy-status-influences-duration-muscle-growth/I
In regards to how many meals you eat in a day, to me it doesn’t really matter. The most
important thing is hitting your macronutrient (protein, carbs, fat) totals for
the day. Now I don’t feel like 1 meal is optimal like a “Warrior Diet” but I
also don’t feel like 8 is either. I personally recommend between 4-6 meals.
Typically if you eat every 4 hours you will eat somewhere around 4 or 5 meals.
The only time I would recommend over 6 meals
would be if the individual could not eat enough food in 6 meals to hit the
desired macro totals I prescribed. Again this leads me to the point of macro
totals are an upmost importance. I don’t consider myself an IIFYM (if it fits
your macros) person but essentially I am. When I design a diet I lay it out in
4-6 meals and a desired macronutrient total. I also provide the foods to hit
that total along with a list of substitutes. I allow them to combine meals so
for instance if they want 3 or 4 meals instead of 5 or 6 I am ok with that.
Also if they want to change the foods to hit the desired total I am ok with that
too! I provide a list of foods with macros listed to help my clients mix and
match foods and still hit their desired totals. For contest prep I do become
much stricter and design the prep diets around a certain amount of meals and
foods that I want the clients to follow.
Take home messages from article
– Eat every 3-6 hours
– Consuming an EAA/BCAA and or CHO supplement between meals may be beneficial
– Consume between 4-6 meals a day
– Above all else hit your desired Macronutrient Totals!!!