T Nation

A Big Meal: How Much is Too Much?


Hi, how are you all?

I'm trying to up my caloric intake, without raising my fat intake.

I understand that when consuming a large meal, if the number of calories is too large for the body to digest, those extra calories will be stored as fat.

However, what is this magic number?

If I eat 600 calories of "good" carbs, will my body not store any as fat?

If I eat 1000 calories of "good" carbs, will my body store 100 of these calories as fat?

Basically, I am asking how many calories or carbs and protein the body can digest without storing these calories of carbs and protein as fat?

Thank you.


It doesn't work like that. If it takes 3,000 cals a day just to maintain your body weight...and you only eat once, you could eat 2,999cals in one sitting and will not gain weight. Weight gain is cumulative. It isn't about one single meal but how you eat all day, all week, all month.


And also, a huge meal for a woman at 45 kg would be less than a snack for a man at 120 kg pure muscle. You can't just make up a general number that fits everyone.


A lot of JB's serving recommendations in his Gourmet Nutrition book top out at around 800 cal. The book seems to be written more with the average trainee in mind (hits the gym 3 times a week, does low to moderate intensity circuit training or jogs). Assuming you're working out at a greater intensity than that (and hence have a faster RMR), I don't see a problem cramming down 1,000 kcal.


Thanks for the replies.

I weigh 155 -- I don't know if that will help in answring the question.

Though my knowledge of nutrition is quite limited, I do know that eating one meal per day of 3000 calories would lead to slowing one's metabolism -- (and maybe putting the body in a catabolic state?).



Why don't you want to raise your fat intake?


Well, yes. One certainly wouldn't choose to eat 3000 calories in a sitting as opposed to spreading it out. Not the best recipe for training and growth and general well-being. But overall calories still matter more than nutrient timing. You should aim to make both appropriate, though.


That is a pretty good question when you think about it. Unfortunately, there is no magic answer. That magic number is not the same post workout as it would be before bed. If one knew EXACTLY how much to eat(and what to eat)and when, guys like JB would be out of a job. Fortunately for JB, it's far for easy to figure this out. You might play with your timed caloric intake throughout the day and see where you are at after a few weeks. Obviously breakfast and post workout will be the largest meals of the day.


You have the basic idea, run with it.

Eat frequently, this has too many benefits to list here, but a few are a steady metabolism and an anabolic condition inside the body.

Find a formula to get a ballpark figure to which to add calories to eat. at 155 pounds I imagine 3,000 a day would be good for now.

Please realize that you will gain a little/lot of fat a long the way. The "road to ripped" is not a short one. It has twists, turns, loops and a whole lot of other stuff. If you want to gain muscle, you must gain weight. not 100% of the weight you gain will be muscle, the sooner you understand that the better you make progess.

There comes a time to lose all that fat later on, then you will look good nekkid....in 5 years.


This is false. If you think one night out eating a whole pizza by yourself will significantly SLOW your metabolism, you are mistaken. You just can't make blanket statements like that. It sure as hell won't put you in a catabolic state. Why would it? You sound like someone very afraid to eat more. At 155lbs, I don't even see why this is in your head. Eat more, eat often. Stop looking for reasons to avoid eating more.


Sorry to uncover an old thread but I'm a bit confused over this statement. I've read that eating one 2,400 calorie meal will lead to weight gain as opposed to eating 6 spread out 400 calorie meals (assuming it takes 2,400 calories to maintain weight).

It was explained that metabolism works on a 'per hour' basis. So if maintenance is 2,400 calories, thats around 100 calories per hour (give or take the changes due to exercise or whatever).

Thus, a single 2,400 calorie meal will not be "metabolized" in time, leading to fat being stored? Whereas spreading the 2,400 calories throughout the day allows your body to "metabolize" the calories.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. :smiley:


If you only eat one meal a day... all the time leading up to the big meal will be spent burning fat... prior to storing some after eating the meal.

Net balance... 0 (assuming you get the total intake right).

Certainly, if you are a sedentary lardass like most of society, your metabolism will probably slow, lowering your total calorie needs, if you don't eat all day.

Given the number of calorie, carb and so forth cycling options out there, I'm not convinced that a healthy and physically active person has to worry about this all that much.

The body was made to survive in a feast, famine, feast environment. I'm experimenting with calorie cycling and my recovery ability has never been better.

Yeah, though I must agree with the Prof here, at a buck fifty in weight you don't get to opine about eating too much and putting on fat. Lift, eat, repeat.


Your metabolism works on a CONSTANT basis, not a "one hour basis". Since we usually think of our own lives in terms of days, we tend to calulate caloric intake based on a 24 hour period. That doesn't have anything to do with how your body uses food as a whole (discounting hormonal changes and time periods related to before and after training). With that in mind, that post from eons ago was related to how your body uses food. If you calculate your daily maintenance caloric intake to be 3,000cals a day...and you only eat 2,800cals a day even at only one meal a day, you will not gain weight. Because over the course of a week, you have still taken in less food than your body needs to maintain your weight.

The main point of that post was to inform someone that eating a large meal does not mean you immediately gain body fat. Your body isn't that spontaneous in how it reacts to food intake. No one goes to Pizza Hut for a buffet ONE DAY and suddenly gains 10lbs of body fat. If they go every day and always eat more than it takes for their body to maintain their body weight, they will gain weight. How much is fat, muscle or water is based on many factors from genetics, to metabolism, age, sex, body size, and activity levels.


Crap... kinda missed the timewarp aspect on this thread.


Thanks for the responses. First off, I want to clear out that I asked the question more because I wanted to understand how the mechanics work rather than because I'm concerned with eating too much or whatever. (btw, vroom.. I'm not the OP, in case it seems like it, hehe)

However, I'm still unclear on a couple things. Okay, going with the previous example. Say you just eat one big meal.. sure, weight remains the same. But does body composition change? I mean if you just eat one big meal, doesn't that result in muscle being burned up for energy prior to the meal, and fat being stored after the meal.. which results in a net gain of ZERO.

So eventually, over time, weight remains the same, but body composition changes?


That's my point. Doesn't our body adapt to the feast, famine, feast environment by storing fat during feast and burning fat and muscle during famine.

(again, I just want to get a better understanding of how this works, I'm not trying to defend or criticize anyone here)


Well, I think possibly that you are totally discounting the concept of building muscle in your analysis.

You have addition of fat, but not addition of muscle. A good time to add muscle would be when using the energy from a feast.

Overeating generally leads to both an increase in muscle mass and an increase in fat mass...


There is no way to make this any clearer. Your body does not work that simply. There is much more going on than "eat, get fat". There are too many variables involved.

Why would your body composition change based on meal frequency alone...as if how you train, how old you are, how fast your metabolism is, how quickly you gain muscle mass, how you ate all week, and several other factors aren't an issue? You are trying to over-simplify an incredibly complex sequence of events.


It's simple man. Your body pretty much has to recognize that it has a constant supply and flow of nutrients, carbs, proteins and fats, and minerals. When this is done then your body will know that it is time to GROW. It has to be a CONSTANT over-feed. That's why when asking for advice on eating..everoyne says eat every 2-3 hours.

This makes your body recognize that you have a constant supply and can grow. If you dont eat like that...your body goes in like starvation mode and stuff like that, so you wotn be able to grow as well. At least thats how I always thought it was. Just eat lots of damn food haha


It's not necessarily this simple. The body can also excrete excess calories.

Shit is not a low calorie food. Ask your nearest fly.

Generally speaking, however, the "calories in vs. out" paradigm is valid in terms of gaining and losing weight. The common consensus that I've read about digestive ability is 50g protein, 80-100g carbs in one sitting. But this will vary from person to person.