T Nation

Meal Frequency


(Not the same thread trust me.)

I realize that people have argued time and time again about 3 meals vs 6 meals. But I have another question.

With the introduction of intermittent fasting, the warrior diet, and of course CT's famous viking diet, it seems meal frequency doesn't matter anymore or does it? My normal routine now is two meals a day starting at 2-3 pm and ending around 10.

Some people have argued that eating too much at once will cause fat gain, but others like the ones supporting IF and WD disagree.

Does anyone know what's been proven time and time again on the forum? I'm down to follow six meals a day, as it will get my parents off my back about how I take too long to eat, but if meal frequency doesn't matter and it's been proven results-wise by forum members, I'd love to know before I decide to follow six meals.


Could be wrong here as there are many more people more advanced and more knowledgeable on this site than I, but it would PARTLY depend upon your goals.

Eating smaller meals more often has been said to fire up your metabolism to the point that it burns energy faster because it acknowledges it'll get more fuel to the fire (so to speak) in a short time, the thought process being that your body will need to store less nutrients in the form of fat. This method supposedly also reduces levels of cortisol production which is one of the hormones that tells the body to store fat.

If you're looking to gain weight, it seems to me that it's a catch 22. On the one hand, you want to keep as many nutrients and excess calories in the body at all times of the day, but if you slow down to only 3 meals a day, your metabolism could potentially slow down and you would store more weight as fat, which COULD have carryover into the weight room by increasing leverages against the weights.

However I don't hold much faith in this last thought, and would rather just eat a shitload of clean food whenever I did not feel completely stuffed and keep my intake high (I've had the best success following that course).

Again, many people here are more knowledgeable than I so take it FWIW.


While I had always heard that available nutrient levels drop at about the 2-3 hour mark, Christian, as well as layne Norton and several other notables have mentioned recent studies pointing to added benefit of allowing levels to drop in order to get a higher spike when you do ingest nutrients again (peaks and valleys, as opposed to trying to maintain a linear level).

Having Mag-10 between feedings certainly helps me feel like I'm not losing muscle but prolonging the gap between meals, but my stomach still growls up a storm if I go too long without some type of solid food.



I don't think anything aside from the obvious, 'as long as you get the nutrition you need', has been proven.

Also, it is kind of hard to come to any conclusive statement based on 'meal frequency', as the composition of the meals is absolutely critical.

Having a whey shake will require feeding a while later due to it's digestion speed, so having 3 meals of these shakes may not be the smartest idea. However, if the meal is high in fiber, fat, and overall size, then it may take much longer to digest (6 hours, maybe?). I just had a 1000kcal wrap with a fiber supplement, that beasty can give me nutrition for a long time.

In sum, meal frequency is dependent on the meals themselves IMO.

(Side note: I seem to recall from earlier posts that you may have trouble eating as much as other recommend [Satiety's a bitch, eh?], if this is the case, then more frequent meals may be more conducive to your goal of eating)


What about nutrient breakdown and absorption?

I mean, I read about people claiming to have access to studies showing that eating more frequently leads to the body being better able to absorb and use the nutrients it is taking in, as oppossed to possibly over feeding it in a few feedings and not allowing all the nutrients to be absorbed.

Has anyone seen any studies suggesting this? I have not, but that does not mean its a bad idea.

Also, what about controlling insulin surges? More frequent meals (of the right foods) can cause more stable blood profiles, right? I thought the theory behind this was to keep insulin at bay for most of the day by eating more often.

Id love to see some studies or here some thoughts about this too.


I have seen some studies (long ass time ago) which showed more nutrients being absorbed something like 2 hours post-prandial in the smaller meal as compared to the bigger meal.

I think this is the study which has been misconstrued as 'smaller meals = better absorption', since the bigger meal just needed more time to be absorbed. (The smaller meal, most likely, has a greater percentage of itself as surface area of the chyme touching the intestinal wall, thus being absorbed, whereas the bigger meal was to have the outer layers absorbed first)

Also, the whole controlling Insulin spikes thing has to assume that you are spiking insulin in the first place. All those pretty charts showing the 3 tall peaks and the 6 moderate peaks of blood sugar are assuming that you eat X amount of carbs in both scenarios, and that they are more concentrated when divided by 3 rather than 6.

You can easily have more fiber or fats, or even bulk (cellulose) to slow down release of glucose, thus minimizing acute insulin spikes.


I have nothing against these Diets. They may work for some people just fine and I'm happy for them. HOWEVER OP you are looking to get bigger I presume? At least I hope so. How many Bodybuilders have you heard of eating 2 meals a day? It just doesn't happen. After you get yourself a nice LARGE physique then fool around with these other Idea's a diets.

But at your stage you need CALORIES and HEAVY WEIGHT being moved around in the gym. Keep it simple I HATE when people who have not made a good deal of progress over analize every little detail when they aren't doing the basics like something as simple as being in a Calorie surplus and are tearing their body's down in the gym.

Just my two cents!


Yep, are already doing those two things. So you're saying go ahead and follow six times a day? since two times a day is absurd?


Let me try and understand this. You eat 2 meals every day with your first being at 2-3pm and another at 10p.m? What time do you get up 1:30? Personally, I think you need to stop worrying so much about when to eat and just eat. Your not going to make much progress eating every 7-8 hrs. If you plan on continuing to eat the way you do, you would be much better off adding at least 2 protein shakes in between your meals. Step it up skinny boy!


Once again, you've lost sight of the big picture.

A more appropriate question would be, how many meals does it take for you to consume to calories and macronutrients you need to grow?

If you are a slow eater as you claim, I seriously doubt that you'd be able to get everything you need in just 2 meals.


YES at least 6 meals a day! Good calories and Lots of them. Good luck


Here is the thing for the OP. He probably hasnt built up his appetite yet, and thus does not understand what it feels like to actually be fueling yourself, not just eating. We all know that without proper fueling, training will just suck balls. I cant imagine going more than 4 hours without eating, let alone 7-8. But at one point in my life, I was eating like that (before I trained seriously).

Once I tought myself how to eat properly, my body demanded food. I did not have the option of eating two meals a day, that just wasnt going to cut it. Every 3 hours or so, I HAD to eat. This is what it takes to put on some mass.

For you OP, if you need to, set a schedule, if thats what it takes to teach you how to eat and how much to eat. Take your target cals, spread them over 6 meals, 3 hours apart, and then eat. This will probably be a huge eye opener for you, as to how much food you really need, and how little you are probably getting right now.

What I am saying is, if you are not naturally hungry pretty much all the fucking time when you are training hard, then you need to schedule your food to ensure you are getting enough cals.

Ask anyone who does this what it is like to wake up late and miss a scheduled meal. Finding room throughout the day to get those missed calories in the other 5 meals can be challenging. Most people will never realize that until they pay close attention to what they are eating though.



The first bulk I did I felt like I was going to puke almost all day and found it difficult to train. I couldn't believe how much food it was taking to obtain the calorie limit I was trying to reach. After about 2-3 weeks of feeling like I was stuffing myself constantly I started noticing that instead of feeling stuffed after every meal I began feeling replenished (the best word I can use to describe the feeling) After a while I was starving if I missed one of my meals and then eventually I felt like I could always eat. I wasn't always "hungry" per-say but I did feel like no matter how much I ate withing 20 min I could start all over again. My body just adapted and began wanting and needing the calories that I used to have to force myself to eat.

And sleeping in as Smithers pointed out is a bitch. I still struggle with this sometimes. Especially if I went out the night before and I end up sleeping in til 11am, I just skipped about 3 meals since I normally wake up at 430 on weekdays. Trying to compensate for those calories without eating an excess of carbs is quite a task, I task I admit that I normally fail.

I don't know if there's any studies proving that eating every 2 hours is the best way to go. But coming from someone who used to lift hard twice a day eat 3 times a day and couldn't get above 135lbs, eating every 2 hours definitely works, especially if they are high protein high calorie meals. Start counting your calories, set an educated calorie limit goal everyday and try and hit it eating only 3 meals a day. Damn near impossible if you're eating clean.


Yep, stuffin my face. And a little bit bigger than my current pic. Oh, I wish I could add those protein shakes, but money is hard to find nowadays. Too bad whey is the cheapest source. What a fail I am as a human being.


Hmm, smart guy. Dammit, guess six times a day has to be the norm. Fuck.


Ah, I remember CT talking about this too. Wow, I'm not going to compare but damn I eat a lot. Probably after I finish replying to everyone, I list what I eat or try to eat, everyday.


Oh, I LOVE WRAPS, SO GOOD. Correct, it may take longer if the size of the meal is big. Oh, it wasn't an issue as in satiety of the stomach, but more satiety of the wallet.


Hopefully your question cleared up in the next post after yours. Yeah, in fact, I think that's the only true scientific reason why six times is favorable.


Ah, finally an answer I was looking for. So now that I've pieced it together, it's like this: those who support frequent eating say it counters insulin, which if high can cause fat gain. But insulin at the right times can also cause great muscle gain though, if I remember. Those who don't say that eventually if given enough time, meals are absorbed anyway.


Yeah, each meal typically takes about an hour to eat.