T Nation

Meal Frequency


I've been troubled during this recent fat loss phase. My daily caloric intake has been between 1,600-2,200 kcal and I've been following the 5-7 meals per day scheme. I haven't been satiated with the mini-meals and decided to look for some info on meal frequency. I am one of the many that has been exposed to the "eat frequent small meals to stoke the metabolic furnace all day!" Apparently that's 100% crap according to this article.


Any thoughts or disputes from the masses? I added a shake and peanut butter to my chicken breast, broccoli and carrots dinner and feel full and am ready for a good night's sleep!


To tell you the truth if dieting or bulking I just make sure my calories are where they need to be at the end of the day. Sometimes I go without food for 3-4 hours, sometimes for 2. I lose fat just fine and don't have to think/worry about food all day as if I were to eat every two hours. While bulking....well I just fucking eat as much as I can lol.


It's all about energy balance, broseph.


Yep! Which opens up a whole 'nother can of worms :slight_smile: Bottom line is if I wanna play 36 holes of golf on a Saturday, go home for a nap after an early tee time, wake up around 4 and eat a 2,000 calorie balanced meal, I can! You have to wonder at what body fat point does your body favor lean muscle tissue over fat for energy.


meal frequency = nada. I actually eat less frequently when cutting. I try to spread my few calories through the day when I need them most. When I'm bulking, I eat frequently to get my calories I need.


It makes it so much easier to eat 3 6-800 kcal meals when trying to lose fat than 6-8 3-400 kcal meals. Plus if you're strapped for time or have an active job/student and can't carry a cooler of food around with you eating less frequently is more applicable.

I'm still shaking my head that I actually believed the whole "stoke the metabolic fire" statement for so long. I even preached it!


yea its crazy how much freedom it gives you from 5-6 meals, always thinking about is the next meal ready? or not if not u start thinking wtf! am gunna loose that bicep peak lol, anyways ave been following the system of intermittent fasting where i do black coffee and light protein shake for 18hrs coz of my morning workout and have a 6hrs window in which i balance my nutrient intake been really nice no loss in strength actully increased, more alert too getting more defined, and am not a proffesional bodybuilder aswell and would want to be lean all year around with bodyfat of 6-8%. before trying this i also thought il loose all my muscle lol.


4 meals MINIMUM for me, I feel like shit when I'm hungry.


There are some advantages of more frequent meals, but stoked metabolism isn't one of them. When dieting I normally have 3 main meals with 2 snacks. On workout days I just replace one of the snacks with pre and post workout shakes. When trying to gain weight I'll probably get 5-6 main meals. Meal frequency isn't as important as total nutrient intake, as long as you don't take it into extremes e.g. not eating for 3 days then eating a single meal of 10,000 calories and repeat.


Please describe the advantages you speak of. Obviously, when I started the thread I had a one day timeframe in mind.


  1. If you're taking in a large amount of calories (upwards of 4000-5000cals) then it might be easier to eat 5-8 meals.

  2. Some people prefer to eat smaller more frequent meals than eating larger ones due to the bloated feeling.

  3. Better blood sugar control (arguable). However, healthy individuals should be able to do this whether they're eating a larger or smaller meal.

I'm not saying 6 meals is better than 3 meals or vice versa, just different methods are more suited than others for different occasions.


For me 3 meals + 2-3 snacks is the way to go. You get most of your calories on the main meals such as lunch, but you still have snacks to add extra calories and control hunger, since i dont like staying many hours without eating. But i dont believe in keeping metabolism high either.


[some of] you guys don't think protein frequency is as important as it has been stressed? If it's not important then why would all the top trainers on this site use feedings every 2-3 hours with their clients? Trainers depend on results for a paycheck. I would assume what they do works the best, or every client would go to the next trainer who was providing results. Am I missing something?


I posted one man's opinion at the top of the thread. You also have to consider the amount of food being eaten by top bodybuilders. If there were only 2-3 feedings for 4-5,000 kcal, that could cause GI discomfort. Different trainers have different methodologies, it's as simple as that! At the end of the day, total calories and protein matter more than meal spacing and frequency, IMO. Do you know something different?


The topic is still under investigation. Annecdotally frequent meals work so why fix what doesn't need fixin.

Frequent feedings do provide a practical strategy to allow athletes to increase energy intake and decrease GI discomfort.

Nutrient timing is one area that does show definite reason to worry about time specific protein requirements:

Refer to the 102 articles/studies that support the International Society of Sports Nutrition's position stand on Nutrient Timing. http://www.jissn.com/content/5/1/17


Thanks for the article reference Bullet...nutrient timing (around exercise) is a different subject altogether. I will concur with you feedings around workouts are of pinnacle importance! I guess I posted the thread with the concept of dieting in mind (low cal/low activity on off day). Interesting read nonetheless.

I'm working on finding alternative anecdotal evidence. Currently I'm eating 3 meals a day with a snack on off days and 3 meals a day + 2 periworkout servings of P+C on lifting days. I find it much easier than "mini-meals."


Yeah I agree that it's a different subject, but it in all honesty I couldn't find any research supporting the several smaller meals approach, but that doesn't mean that it's not a good idea. I also spent quite a bit of time researching if there were any negative side effects from larger meals (if calories were the same) and I could not find any support for that either.

I did however find some annecdotal evidence that going longer between meals and or skipping breakfast is correlated with obesity. But I found other research refuting that. All said, I think it's safe to say that there is more research that needs to be done, especially with regards to bodybuilding.

In response to "

," I think there is valid support for adjusting your calories to match your energy ependiture. But who's to say that a day is the period over which you have to adjust those calories? Perhaps matching your energy expenditure over a week would have the same results. Perhaps not. I really don't think the subject is clear.

Annecdotally, I remember one of the authors on here who said he experimented by having some of his clients vouch for 3 larger meals and three l-leucine shakes as snacks. Anyone remember who that was? Berardi maybe, or CT? Sorry to be so vague.



Cutting: I look at my total intake, design my meals, eat every 2 hours.

Bulking: I eat every 1.5hrs. Sometimes if something looks tasty even if I just ate 1 hour ago I'll eat it. Carbs can't go over 500g and protein can do whatever the hell it wants ie 2-4g/lb maybe more.