How Many Times a Day You Should Be Eating
The age old question of how many times one should eat per day to achieve the best results with weight loss and lean muscle enhancement, has to be in the top 3 questions I’m asked routinely as it pertains to dieting. With so much conflicting information circulating on the Internet, how can one be sure they’re doing the “right thing” as it relates to their fitness goals? Today I’m going to provide clarity once and for all…
So how many times should you be eating per day?
Well….That really depends on soooooo many things, but the reality is the number of times you’re eating per day is nowhere close to as important as the following:
1. Portion Control
Making sure you are eating balanced meals that are properly portioned toward YOUR goals and lifestyle, (Not that of your favorite celeb or Instagram fitness personality) is as important to the success of your diet, as air is to human beings in order to sustain life. Please re-read that last sentence before moving on.
2. Meal Timing
The timing of your meals is super important to this process. And it matters not the duration of hours and minutes that pass between meals, but once we determine what that interval is, (which be dictated in part by the # of meals we decide will work best for our personal needs) we stick to it like clockwork
For example: assuming we conclude that eating every 4 hours is most conducive to our lifestyle respectively, we need to make damn sure we are respecting this fact, and acting on it accordingly. Your body will quickly smarten up to the fact that you’re fueling it every 4 hours. It will then tell itself, “self, I was just fed, and will get more food in 4 hours. Therefore I can burn off any of these extra calories I don’t need between now and then.” This is what happens when your metabolism speeds up.
Conversely, when you for example follow eating patterns like the following: skip breakfast, eat a big lunch, maybe snack again in 2 hours, grab takeout 5 hours later, then wake up in the middle of the night and eat 1/2 a jar of peanut butter, your body has no idea what the hell is happening, and will store and hold on to more calories just because it has no idea when it will be fed again. This is a survival mechanism and will result in the storage and accumulation of fat. This is an example of how ones metabolism will be slowed down. The truth is this; 98% of the time the speed of our metabolism or lack of as it were, is dictated by the CHOICES we make and lifestyle we live.
3. Consuming Healthy Foods
4. CONSISTENCY!!!!!!!!!!The “secret” to accomplishing literally anything in life is staying consistent with your approach. Not some of the time, not doing a couple things the right way and 1/2 stepping the other 3, literally applying the most amount of effort each and every time. In this case making sure we stay ridiculously consistent with:
- Meal Timing
- Eating Healthy
If you’re 1/2 assing the work, plan on getting 1/2 ass results. That’s just reality. You wouldn’t attempt to bake a cake and just throw in however much of each ingredient you felt like and expect that cake to come out to be anything palatable would you?
So is there an ideal meal frequency to improve efficiency with and optimize fat loss, muscle growth, speed up our metabolisms, and overall make us healthier people?
Too many studies have investigated this question, and the good news is the results are fairly conclusive. When subjects consume the same total calories split between two versus six meals, one versus three versus five meals, or two versus 3-5 meals, there was no difference in metabolic rate in overweight or obese individuals. Also, no difference in metabolic rate (calories the body will burn on its own over a 24 hour period) was noted between subjects who were considered to be at a “healthy weight”, whether they consumed 2 or 7 meals daily. So to paraphrase, eating 3x per daily vs 10x per day will not speed up your metabolism when your nutritional intake is consistent in a 24 hour period. Calories consumed are what ultimately matter.
It is not practical for most people to eat a finally tuned, well balanced diet eating just twice a day. I mean you would have to be really spot on with your portions, and in order to maintain and be successful with this meal frequency, live a pretty inactive lifestyle and not workout. Spikes in metabolic rates (exercise) will need to be supported by proper nutrition in order to obtain desired results with the body. In layman’s terms, when we workout we typically get hungry after the fact, and unless we desire to live life in a constant state of hunger and aggravation, it’s not practical to think those of us living active lifestyles will be able to reach our goals eating 2x a day.
What About All This Talk About How I Need To Eat 5-6x a Day To Lose Weight?
It’s a myth. Nothing more. Yes you can lose weight eating this way. Just like you can by eating 2-4x a day. The question you need to ask yourself is if you are capable of eating this frequently on a consistent basis, The reality is only the most disciplined and fortunate of us have the ability to do this. This myth most likely originated from the bodybuilding world. Bodybuilders & fitness competitors will eat 6x a day in preparation for competition in order to achieve a lean, shredded, and aesthetic physique. “Society” picked up on this and came to the conclusion if it works for them, it’ll work for us! Sounds reasonable right? Wrong….
Fitness competitors put themselves in a dangerous calorie deficit to achieve “the look” we see on the magazines and in pictures on social media. We are led to believe these physiques are maintained year round, and naturally aspire to model this in our own lives.
TRUTH: Your body cannot exist in such a deficit for too long, which is why most competitors gain 20-50 pounds and look nothing like their competition pics when they are not prepping. They also experience s wide variety of side effects such as decreased mental acuity, irritability, fatigue, loss of sex drive, and metabolic damage. The tie in here is eating 6 meals daily for someone putting themselves through this process is ideal, but for MENTAL PURPOSES ONLY. This is because dieting on low calories and eating stuff equivalent to gerbil will literally leave you always hungry, and cause you to look forward to nothing besides their next meal, or weekly cheat meal. (if applicable)
So how many times should YOU eat per day?
Only you can answer that based off the information I provided. With my company I have my clients work around a 4x a day meal plan. This gives them the opportunity to space meals out, not have to worry about eating every 2 hours, and allows our company to provide the variety within the diet which I firmly believe is directly proportional to sustainability and the overall success of ones diet and body goals. Of course I have some clients who require additional calories and supplement around those 4 meals, but the 4 meal system has worked out exceptionally well and in my opinion seems to be the sweet spot as far as a happy medium for our average clients lifestyle.
I hope this has helped in some way, and wish you continued success and prosperity on your fitness journey!
Please share with anyone who may need help with accomplishing their goals.