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Bert Bauzon
Bert Bauzon is a licensed physiotherapist specializing in spinal care and sports rehabilitation. He writes articles and books about exercise science and health care.

The Truth about Meal Frequency and Timing

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the topic of meal frequency and timing.

Somehow the fitness world made it complicated, especially for beginners to start their fitness journey in the right direction.

Meal frequency refers to the number of times you eat per day.

On the other hand, meal timing refers to a specific time to eat to achieve the desired result of losing weight or gaining muscles.

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To make an informed decision about your fitness goals, you must understand the basic science behind fitness and body recomposition.

Many fitness programs emphasize eating small and frequent meals consisting of 5 to 6 feeding times per day to achieve fat loss or muscle gain without considering other factors that may affect your fitness levels, such as your appetite, cost impact, and lifestyle.

A large volume of meals per day may not be applicable for all. Lifestyle and diet should be complementary to each other.

What is your goal?

Fat loss is achieved when you burn more calories than you consume.

This is called caloric deficit.

Generally, you burn calories when you exercise and do other physical activities throughout the day.

Maintaining a caloric deficit program will ensure that the energy you consume will not be stored as fat.

It does not matter whether you prefer to eat 2 or 4 meals per day.

As long as you are maintaining a state of caloric deficit, you will eventually achieve fat loss.

Moreover, adding fasting in your program would be beneficial in achieving caloric deficit and weight management.

Fasting reduces your overall insulin levels which allows your body to break down your fat to be used as energy, creating a net weight loss effect.

The higher the exercise intensity, the greater calories you can burn

Muscle gain and hypertrophy depends mainly on your protein consumption and exercise.

Therefore, if you are building up muscles, you must prioritize protein intake over meal frequency.

Based on studies, you need at least 0.7lbs to 1.0lbs per pound (1.6 to 2.2g per kilogram)of your total body weight to facilitate muscle growth.

The leaner you are, the more likely you will benefit from protein intake.

In reality, it doesn’t matter if you prefer eating 3 or 6 times per day.

If you consume protein below the recommended intake values, you will have a hard time achieving muscle growth.

Gaining muscle is all about dietary protein intake and consistency with your exercise routine.

What is the right timing to maximize your gain?

Throughout your day, your body undergoes catabolic and anabolic cycles.

Catabolic means breaking down of molecules, while anabolic is the creation of proteins vital for building muscles.

It is essential to eat your meal during the anabolic phase of your body to promote protein build-up and maximise your gain.

Resistance exercises and weight training are known to stimulate the anabolic process.

That’s why your pre-workout and post-workout meals will help you provide energy to do your exercises effectively and help form new muscle cells.

Based on recent studies, the 30-minute anabolic window does not exist.

Therefore, immediate intake of protein and carbs after a workout would not significantly impact your gains compared to eating a few hours after an exercise.

The window for the anabolic phase is active throughout the day. There is no need to rush your meal times.

What is your preference?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to your preference.

You have the power to decide what would be the ideal and comfortable routine for you.

There is no specific set of rules regarding meal frequency that would dictate your fitness success.

If you are someone who eats substantial meals, you might benefit from 3 feedings per day.

In contrast, a more frequent meal structure may be for you if you are a nimbler type because of your low appetite.

The quality of your meal and protein intake is more beneficial than your meal frequency and timing

Take away

It is vital to understand the complexity of human metabolism.

You cannot compare yourself with anyone since different people have different activity levels and genes.

Your fitness journey doesn’t have to be complicated.

Instead of focusing on meal frequency, focus on key factors that will determine your fitness success, such as consistency in your exercise routine, quality of meals, and caloric intake.

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