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One Big Meal in the Evening - Good or Bad Strategy?

Hey guys,

I have the habit of eating one very big meal in the evening and only a few small ones over the day for years now. Meaning I eat like 500-1000calories from 6am-4pm and 3000-4000calories from 4pm to 6-7pm, after which I go to bed at around 9pm. I love that setup, because it makes me energetic throughout the day (dopa), but I feel sleepy in the evening (serotonin) and additionally I dont get full otherwise.
But a friend of mine told me yesterday that having one big meal leads to a lower muscle and higher bodyfat gain compared to eating a more balanced diet. I thought it doenst matter because digestion takes many hours or even days anyway.

Does anyone read something about that topic somewhere and could tell me if thats true? Even if I mentally love that setup, I love good gains even more hahaha

Best Regards

Edit:
An typical day looks like that

6am Waking up
6:30 Whey Shake
2 Hours home office
8:30 Coffee + Citrulin
9-10:30 Workout + Maltodextrin
11 Broccoli with cheese and an apple
In the Office
14:30-15:30 Technical/Skill work or a relaxed walk
15:30 Glycine
16-18/19 Big meal
21:30 Bed

look at your shape, did you gain fat ? did you gain more muscle ?

You said that you are feeling good doing this … maybe its good for you and not for your friend. Do what’s best for you and thats it

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To tell you the truth, I dont know whats best for me. There is a difference between feeling good and doing the right stuff, otherwise I would be out there sprinting everyday and stuffing myself with cookies afterwards. Because of that I hoped there is some kind of scientific more reliable knowledge out there that indicates if this way of eating has any major drawbacks.

Still, if you tell me I could do it that way, it cant have any dramatic negative drawbacks so thats a valuable information in itself. Thanks for that.

the only thing that matter is ; calorie IN, calorie OUT. If you eat 2500 cals and you want to eat 500 cals trought the day and 2000 in the evening fine, this is still 2500 cals and it make your feel good.

Your not fat because you eat more cals at night. Your fat because you ate too much calories

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I have an adequate calorie intake. Thats for sure. Im gaining weight at a good rate. The question for me was if the ratio between muscle/fat gain gets worse eating that way, because Thib often wrote that intermittent fasting and splurt meals arent good for bulking. But it seems like I simply overthought the issue. Sadly a bad habit of mine.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer. All the best from germany :+1:

I really don’t agree with that. I mean I REALLY don’t.

And it piss me off when people are quick to jump on the “cool” bandwagon of the day without thinking everything through.

And when it comes to nutrition, the “cool” thing is now to claim that only caloric and protein intake matters because studies show that to be true. But there are SEVERAL problems with that (I’ll address that in a moment).

I think this is either because some people either blindly thrust what their favorite training expert is saying, or because he look at the science without thinking everything through. Or some simply just believe what fits what they want to hear (e.g. only calories matter = I can eat what I want).

Ironically a few years back the pendulum was on the other end: the cool thing to say was that calories actually didn’t matter… it was all about insulin, cortisol, being fat adapted, etc.

Just like with everything, the extremes are pretty much never correct.

YES, caloric intake (and protein intake) are the most important factors, but other elements does come into play.

For example, when you are intermittent fasting, during the fasting period, cortisol and adrenaline will be elevated beyond what you normally see on a regular diet.

The reason is that cortisol is one of the main mobilizers of stored energy.

If you don’t ingest any food, you will need to rely on stored energy as fuel. And this means that cortisol will be released.

And cortisol itself leads to an increase in adrenaline. That’s actually why most people report more energy when fasting: it’s the increase in adrenaline due to the higher cortisol level.

Sure, once you have your feast meal, cortisol and adrenaline will go down. But the fact remains, that these two will stay high for a good portion of the day. If the person lives a stressful life or is physically active, this will be magnified.

This can hurt muscle growth, in the long run, could lead to a decrease in T3 levels and insulin resistance.

People who claim to be evidence-based are WAY too quick to claim that only calories matter. The fact is that studies only look at the average gain (or loss) of an experimental group. And just because the group average shows one thing, doesn’t mean that the whole group experienced the same thing.

For example you could have 2-3 people losing a huge amount of fat and 1 people showing only a small loss or even fat gain, the group will show a moderate fat loss.

A second group could have moderate losses across the board and people would conclude that both group has the same level of fat loss… but for the majority of the group, intervention 2 was better.

Furthermore, it can take time for cortisol to have an impact on body composition and the duration of the studies might not show that.

Those studies will also not show the possible side effects of excess adrenaline production and its risk on desensitizing the beta-adrenergic receptors.

Another issue, not directly related to your eating pattern, but to the “only calories matter” is that some foods can have a pro-inflamatory effect on the body. And while chronic systemic inflammation can take a while to show negative effects on body composition, in the long run it can have a significant impact (impacting insulin sensitivity, fat gain and even negatively affecting muscle growth via an effect on the androgenic receptors).

Of course, studies are not of a long-enough duration to account for those effects.

Finally, pretty much all nutritional studies use a self-reporting protocol. People are told what to eat and they fill out a nutritional journal. But several other studies have shown that pretty much everybody involved in those studies mis-report their food intake, with overweight people tending to under-report food intake (the more overweight they are, the higher is the difference between real and reported intake). Underweight and anorectic people tend to over-report food intake.

So personally, I look at pretty much all nutritional studies lasting more than a day with a huge grain of salt.

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Hey Christian,

first of all; I love your rants :joy: Even in most podcasts you did, the best parts are when you start ranting about something. Always insightful, maybe because of that small adrenaline spike :wink:

Second, of course I dont know for sure, so take this statement as a possibility, but I dont think bigmax really thought that calories in/out is all that matters. For me it felt more like he gave me a clear cut answer, because he thought Im overanalyzing the matter (aka over-analysis leads to paralysis) and wanted to give me a straight answer so I cant discuss/overthink the issue any further.

Lastly, I know its a little bit bad-mannered to ask a follow-up question after you took your time to provide that much information for us, but the urge to know how that plays out in my case is just too big.
Because instead of not eating at all, Im eating frequently, just not big amounts. Compared to IF it shouldnt raise adrenaline that much and by eating a big meal at the evening, it should lead to a nice anabolic spike because of the high amounts of energy and proteins. Lastly the first 1000kcal of the evening are fast carbs to fill up all the glykogen stores and raise my insulin, after that Im eating more fats, slow-digested carbs and proteins, which probably are ingested in the small intestine while offering energy until 10-12am next day.

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It is on my list to Santa - please the end of the ‘calorie in calorie out’ (CICO) myth in 2021.

I came across this ‘old’ study only recently, which seems to sum it up (Elemental balances during intravenous hyperalimentation of underweight adult subjects (Rudman et al, 1975):

Basically back in 1975 - the days when medical ethics weren’t quite as constraining - subjects were fed intravenously, using protein, glucose and other nutrients such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, etc. They then started to withdraw the various components of the feed to see what effect it had on growth of bone, muscle and fat tissues. What they found is that when either protein, sodium or phosphorus were withdrawn, bone and muscle growth ceased. The remaining energy was converted into fat. This study showed abundant glucose alone was enough to drive fat mass.

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It is 100% because of the adrenaline spike

I will do a youtube video about it

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That is super interesting. Especially about the impact of phosphorus and sodium

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of course every person will act differently i agree with you. But he said that he felt good doing this this way so if he feel good and his body composition is fine and everything is good i dont think he should change the way he eat ?

calorie in calorie out i was not talking about eating a big mac… where are still in a training forum and where people should know that they need to eat clean cals

This looks like the Warrior diet pretty much right? Sub some eggs / tuna / chicken breast and fruit for protein shakes etc. Big feast at night.

Or pulse feast, sub the whey shake with mag 10 pulses.

Really great strategy (from my experience). You can eat more at the feast (or junkier food) to gain, cleaner to cut etc.

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days,months, years .?

j ason Fung says about chronically elevated insulin with high frequency eating. ? Did lowering cortisol cost insulin rise in daily health regulation?
Thank you CT

That good to hear. Making good gains right now, but Im always asking myself if it would be better eating in a more normal pattern. But if you made good experiences bulking/gaining with it too, thats good to hear!

You need to understand that people tend to preach for their own parish and even solid experts will have some confirmation bias, only looking at what tends to prove their point of view, or strengthen it.

I am not married to any type of dieting. Depending on the situation I will use 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 meals with a client. I can go high carbs, moderate carbs, high fat, etc. I use the approach best suited for each individual.

While it is true that more frequent meals have the potential to elevate insulin more often, it is not always the case as it depends on the content of the meals.

For example, I often use 5-6 meals per day with clients. But only 2 of those meals will have a singnificant amount of carbs, the others are protein and fats. And while protein can increase insulin, a protein + fat meal will, in reality not lead to a significant insulin elevation.

Same if someone is using a keto diet: you won’t get a significant insulin elevation at any point of your day even if you ate 12 meals.

It is also worth nothing that chronically elevated cortisol level can, itself lead to a rebound insulin production (cortisol elevates blood sugar level and you might need to release insulin to bring it back down).

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thank you

Are you saying that during stressful times (ie final exams), it might possibly be a good idea for some people to slightly increase carbs?

@JamesBrawn007 you make an interesting point about sodium. I’ve noticed that when I increase sodium, I feel really good even though calories are the same/slightly lower

Yes, carbs are the most efficient natural thing to decrease cortisol.

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That’s very interesting and it makes sense, but I’ve also read some stuff about stress impairing insulin sensitivity.
I know this is getting into details that might not matter very much in the big picture, but the science is cool