For decades’ people, have been told to eat multiple small meals a day, “It keeps the metabolism burning”. The concept of eating every 2-3 hours is now starting to be replaced by new diets like if it fits your macros. These types of diets focus on your overall intake of the day. There’s a little more to it, but basically if you hit your protein, carb and fat goals you’re good for the day. It’s hard to argue against either one, since both can and have produced great results for people, but which style of diet should you follow? Well it depends!
The first aspect to look at is what’s your goal? Are you looking to build muscle, get ripped, loose 20 lbs for vacation, get stronger? You get the point, there are a lot of different goals people have, so there is no one thing that will work for everyone.
The second aspect that’s important to look at is what are you currently doing? If you’re currently eating nutrient dense foods and balanced meals, then it might be time to look at your meal timing. But if you’re eating processed foods and an overall poor quality diet, then simply switching to healthy foods, could yield you some great results.
The third aspect that is important to look at is your lifestyle. If you have an active job and are in the gym multiple days a week, meal timing can be of benefit, but if you work a desk job and get little activity just hitting your macro goals for the day would be great. Although if your lifestyle does not permit for you to eat 6 times a day then be realistic and choose the diet you will stick with! To simplify if your fitness goal is on the more extreme side of things, such as bodybuilding or performing at a high level, meal timing matters. If your goal is more of a beginner level goal, hitting your calories and macros will bring you awesome results. Okay so now you know which one would work best for you, you’re probably asking why?
Why is Meal Timing Important?
Meal timing is the superior option when it comes to building muscle and achieving a more extreme fitness goal. The reason for spreading your meals every 2-3 hours is not just for the metabolism, but it helps with blood sugar levels, digestion, hunger and to cause protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is basically what tells our muscles to grow and repair from our workouts. To cause protein synthesis a male requires about 30-40 grams of protein and a female requires about 20-30 grams.
An example of this would be a 5 oz chicken breast or 2 scoops of protein powder. So, say we have 5 high protein meals a day, that’s 5 separate times we can tell our muscles to grow. This can really make a difference when trying to add lean muscle. You might be thinking “so why don’t we just eat protein every hour?” Well it would be awesome if we could cause protein synthesis 24 times a day, but once protein synthesis is caused we must let it drop back down. If we keep pushing protein every minute, we become desensitized and the protein would just be used or stored by the body.
Another reason for a more frequent meal timing is performance and recovery in the gym. If we time certain nutrients around our workout we can achieve a better performance in the gym and recover faster after our workout. The better we recover the more we can train a muscle, giving that muscle more opportunities to grow. Some people argue that timing certain nutrients around your workout don’t make a difference. Well next time you have a tough workout don’t consume anything before or after and just eat one meal with all your macros at the end of the day. I promise you, you will be sore the next day!
Take Home Message
So, if your current goal is focused on pushing your body to a new level, then a diet that involves nutrient timing and more frequent meals is the superior choice. But if you’re in the early stages of your fitness journey and are looking to make a lifestyle change, then don’t over complicate things and focus on achieving your macros and calories from nutrient dense foods.