I'm sure one of the first things that you've heard about weight loss and getting six pack abs is that you need to eat 5-7 small meals a day. The theory is that since you are continually supplying nutrients to your body then you'll be able to stay hungry and most importantly keep your metabolism high. Not to mention the fact that you'll keep your blood sugar stable and that's the main way to lose weight, right?
While it sounds good from a distance, I'm not buying it.
Now let me stop myself and say that I enjoy eating 7-10 meals a day. I'm 6'6" and when I'm lean I'm about 235. I need to eat smaller meals so I'm not bloated, I feel full and I'm generally pleasant to be around.
Also, research shows us that leucine, the amino acid primarily responsible for turning on muscle growth drops about 2 hours after it was eaten. Those are two huge feathers in the cap for eating every 2-3 hours.
I wanted to point out that there's evidence for and against eating five to seven small meals a day, you need to decide how your body responds best.
That being said, the main positive thrown out when people suggest that you eat every two to hours is the thermic effect of food (TEF). Basically everytime you eat your body will need energy (calories) to break down the food. The TEF is dependent on the food that you eat. Protein is the highest and wiill account for about 20-25%, while carbs will be 5% an fat being around 3%.
So every time you eat, your body responds according to your food intake. The problem start with our thinking of TEF. If we're on a 1,500 calorie diet, for example, and we eat 300 calories over 5 meals (I just threw out a random calorie number here) or eat 500 calories over the course of three meals the net TEF at the days end is going to be the same. The only difference is going to be the blood sugar spike, either we spike it 3 or 5 times.
We can either give our metabolism a small or big shot. The entire theory of multiple small meals came about years ago with the though process that since you were eating 6 small meals the chances of adding bodyfat would be lower then 3 small meals.
Yes, at 3 small meals you will increase the likelihood of those nutrients being stored as fat greater then those 6 meals but you'll have a greater chance to also burn more fat with those 3 meals versus those 6.
At the end of the day it comes down to the calories that came in versus the calories that went out and it's not just a day by day process. I'm still recovering the day after a hard back and hamstring session and my calories will partly go towards that.
As I presented above, individuals differences do apply and everyone's metabolism is different based on their height, muscle mass and activity level. Just don't accept the idea that the only way you burn fat is with 6 or 7 small meals.
Jimmy Smith, MS, CSCS is a Men's Fitness and Maximum Fitness training expert. Jimmy's training knowledge and personal experience have made him an expert when it comes to getting "skinny-fat guys" in the best shape. For more information go to jimmysmithtraining.com.