HOW MANY MEALS SHOULD I EAT PER DAY?
I continue to hear a lot of talk (and get a lot of questions) regarding how often one should eat for various fitness goals.
The first thing we need to get out of the way is the fact that multiple scientific studies have shown that there is no evidence that eating more meals per day aids in protein synthesis (building muscle), fat loss, increase in metabolism or any other fitness goal as long as the calorie intake is equal. Three meals vs six meals, one meal vs eight meals...as long as the number of calories consumed is equal there is no significant difference in the results.
That being said, there are situations where spreading calorie intake over multiple meals is beneficial.
- The Hard Gainer (someone who has difficulty gaining either muscle or fat). Usually classified as an Ectomorph body type. In order to consume enough calories and nutrients to gain muscle, the Ectomorph may have difficulty reaching his or her goal eating only three meals a day. There is only so much that can be consumed at one sitting. Spreading the food intake over five or more meals per day will usually allow the hard gainer to consume more calories.
Note that very few people would be classified as a "pure" Ectomorph or Mesomorph or Endomorph.
Almost everyone will fall somewhere in between the body type classifications. Regardless of body type, the above paragraph could apply. There are a lot of people who subscribe to the process of "bulking and cutting" phases of training.( I am definitely NOT one of them).
- Fat Loss. Spreading a reduced number of calories over more meals to lose weight won't alter the outcome. However, one of the major difficulties with weight loss is staving off hunger. If the client gets hungry between regular meals they are much more likely to give in to their cravings. Cravings usually involve sweet or salty or fatty foods. Even if they get past the cravings they are much more likely to binge at the regular meals. Spreading the prescribed calorie intake over more meals (including healthy snacks) usually helps with cravings and binging.