T Nation

Eating Unhealthy vs. Fasting

I am not one for bulking and cutting, but I do eat about 4,000 calories/day and train 6days/week. I am an extremely healthy eater and am conscious about what I put in my body at all times. With the consistency and intensity that I train, I often am told that it is better to eat unhealthy than it is to not eat for 4/5 hours.

I am wondering if anyone has real insight (preferably not bro-science) to whether I am better off eating unhealthy (pizza/chips/candy)or waiting up to 6 hours to have a healthy meal. My broad goals are to gain muscle without losing my conditioning; looking to put 10 more lbs on in the next 6 months and keep bf% at or below 10%

My stats are:

23 y/o
210 lbs
10% bf


Although we have been led to believe that one should eat every 2-3 which some do to keep a constant stream of nutrients in the blood some new studies have shown that not eating for 4-6 hours while letting nutrients dip in the bloodstream then eating may cause a greater spike in protein synthesis.

There’s one idea… Another is if you aren’t hungry - don’t eat - listen to your body.

And lastly, if it’s working for you just keep doing it, if you don’t want to eat unhealthy could you make some protein bars or have some shakes?

I’m not really sure there’s much benefit to eating pizza/chips/candy other then a ‘cheat’ meal but in between meals and often enough it’s probably not a good thing unless it’s less then 10% of your overall ‘wiggle room’.

I’m compiling research right now because I’m writing the definitive article on what constitutes healthy eating, including science-based guesses on wiggle room and how often one needs protein. I can say, however, that based on what I’ve read, and plenty of experiential evidence, you are not better off eating unhealthy. Efuchs7 has some good advice. Eating every 2-3 hours is old school and wrong. Take his advice, carry around a protein bar.

We sell excellent ones:

Yeah I have made bars and substituted for unhealthy snacks. I guess I am surrounded by people who aren’t necessarily on the same path as I am in regards to health and fitness. When people are grabbing pizza for lunch at the office I often sit and ponder my decision and am confident I’m not the only one.

@Efuchs7 - Listening to my body is my go to - the question is when I’m hungry and my options are fasting or junk food, which is better. That being said, that is really interesting about a dip and subsequent spike. I guess that means crushing a few huge meals will yield higher results. Definitely will read into it. I’m just so shit at fighting hunger, especially when there are so many people eating this tempting ‘junk’ food all around me.

Haha, so let me get this straight: you’re 23, 210lbs, “10%” bodyfat, and want to put on 10 pounds, at least 9 of which will be muscle.

Good luck with that.

I deal with this sort of situation all the time. I’ve never eaten every few hours because I felt it was “good for muscle growth”, it’s always been more about NEEDING to in order to keep my energy levels up and my hunger at bay. I’m Italian, we are hungry every 45 minutes :slight_smile:
So here’s my advice. Obviously, the best scenario is to have food available, whether it be a protein bar or even something like an apple and/or almonds. But, sometimes that is not possible and we are stuck in situations where we can’t. So then you’re stuck with what’s there. For your goal of gaining 10 pounds, 2 slices of pizza is not the worst meal to have every now and then. Potato chips and candy are complete garbage, so I can’t imagine they are better than not eating anything. But it’s a rare situation that candy/chips are the only things available.
I don’t do “cheat meals”. Instead, I let life situations take care of when my diet strays, and it usually works itself out and allows me to not be the weird guy eating a protein bar while everyone is having pizza.

That said, if I’m gonna workout later and the food that is available is something that will mess up my energy levels, I will skip it and be the weird guy eating a protein bar or whatever. But otherwise, as long as my diet is solid the other 90 percent of the time and I don’t BINGE on these “Regular person meals”, it’s all good. I actually think it’s beneficial for someone who is super strict all the time.

@ Doingwork - go spread your negativity elsewhere. why would you ever want to be the guy wandering through the internet spending time shooting people down. I just read your most recent post where you felt it necessary to tell the world you’re a corporate attorney, shouldn’t you be smart enough to know other ways to self-inflate your ego than to shoot a dull cheap shot (anonymously!) at a 23 year old. All your post does is make me thankful that I am wise enough not to turn out like you.

@eddialfano - that’s a good take on it. thanks for the response.

There are plenty of healthy options when you are on the go. If coworkers go out for pizza, pizza places serve salads. Opt for one of those. If you’re running around town, stopping at a convenience store and picking up some nuts and jerky is much better than fast food. Most convenience stores carry RTD Muscle Milk or just pack your own protein powder.

Thanks for the comment Ripsaw! I definitely appreciate all the help with what to eat as alternatives. I guess the thing that I was most interested in was the main idea of whether it is better for me to eat unhealthy or to fast. I understand that there are alternatives, such as eating protein bars, but I was really interested on the science of it.

If you know your obstacles then you can have a plan to conquer them. All in all if you ate 6 meals every 2-3 hours or 3 meals that had the same amount or marcos and kcal, you probably wouldn’t see much difference… I think meal timing is more about finding what works for your schedule.

Find some snacks to carry around… and If you have a planned cheat meal then that’s a good thing but if you are just eating something because it’s there and it happened that’s different. I’d rather have a cheat meal a week and have it be awesome and something that I plan and look forward to rather then compulsive eating that I did just because it was there…

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going 4 to 5 hours without eating; it might even be the best way to eat