T Nation

Temporal Distribution of Calorie Consumption

After reading through Joy Victoria’s recent article of 3/8/13 entitled Best Ways to Make Dieting Easier ( http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/best_ways_to_make_dieting_easier ) in which she extols the virtues of a more laid-back approach to meal size, frequency, and timing, I was reminded of a question that always bugs me: if the total intake of calories and macros is what matters over the course of a day, and the manner in which that “allotment” is broken up over time is much less relevant, does the same hold true over the course of many days?

Obviously, at some point, fasting for days and then consuming all the “missed” calories and nutrients in one day will fail, but at what point is there a measurable difference, and how much “cushion” does one have from day to day?

A quick thought experiment could be the following:

Contrast three different approaches to consuming 6000 total calories over a three day period where, say, 9000 calories represents maintenance (with all other variables being equal, obviously).

___________Day1 Day2 Day3
Approach 1 : 2000 2000 2000
Approach 2 : 1000 1000 4000
Approach 3 : 0000 0000 6000

Intuition tells us that the first approach is best and the last approach is worst, but why? And at what point does this shift begin to take place? Is 2200/1900/1900 going to be noticeably worse than 2000/2000/2000? How about 3000/1500/1500? How different will the results be over time for someone who repeats the first approach vs. someone who repeats the second approach over the same time period?

[quote]ChrisPowers wrote:
After reading through Joy Victoria’s recent article of 3/8/13 entitled Best Ways to Make Dieting Easier ( http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/best_ways_to_make_dieting_easier ) in which she extols the virtues of a more laid-back approach to meal size, frequency, and timing, I was reminded of a question that always bugs me: if the total intake of calories and macros is what matters over the course of a day, and the manner in which that “allotment” is broken up over time is much less relevant, does the same hold true over the course of many days?

Obviously, at some point, fasting for days and then consuming all the “missed” calories and nutrients in one day will fail, but at what point is there a measurable difference, and how much “cushion” does one have from day to day?

A quick thought experiment could be the following:

Contrast three different approaches to consuming 6000 total calories over a three day period where, say, 9000 calories represents maintenance (with all other variables being equal, obviously).

___________Day1 Day2 Day3
Approach 1 : 2000 2000 2000
Approach 2 : 1000 1000 4000
Approach 3 : 0000 0000 6000

Intuition tells us that the first approach is best and the last approach is worst, but why? And at what point does this shift begin to take place? Is 2200/1900/1900 going to be noticeably worse than 2000/2000/2000? How about 3000/1500/1500? How different will the results be over time for someone who repeats the first approach vs. someone who repeats the second approach over the same time period?[/quote]

I read we should stop looking at it in isolation, things happen over weeks not days ( generally ). So in your situation above we’re shooting for 42,000 calories in a week. If that’s what is required for fat loss in your case then we should say the week starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday.

If by Friday night you are at 40,000 calories, then you only get 2,000 on Saturday.

I feel the weekly approach works for some, where others need the daily. When it comes to diet it is highly individualized, so try various things and see what works for you.

[quote]ChrisPowers wrote:
After reading through Joy Victoria’s recent article of 3/8/13 entitled Best Ways to Make Dieting Easier ( http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/best_ways_to_make_dieting_easier ) in which she extols the virtues of a more laid-back approach to meal size, frequency, and timing, I was reminded of a question that always bugs me: if the total intake of calories and macros is what matters over the course of a day, and the manner in which that “allotment” is broken up over time is much less relevant, does the same hold true over the course of many days?

Obviously, at some point, fasting for days and then consuming all the “missed” calories and nutrients in one day will fail, but at what point is there a measurable difference, and how much “cushion” does one have from day to day?
[/quote]

Meal timing is way over-thought. Nutritional needs do not occur on a regular schedule. Nutritional needs are dependent on how quickly nutrients are utilized (utilization itself is dependent on many factors such as prior nutritional status, stress, injury, etc.). The body has a way of sparing that which is least available - hence the slowing of the metabolism during fasting. The fasted state is a very therapeutic state for the body to be in as it allows eliminative and restorative processes to fully access the body’s resources.

Our primitive ancestors ate infrequently and opportunistically. This is coded into our genetics. Your worry about prolonged fasting and then consuming all the missed nutrition in a shorter period is needless. This is how it has happened for most of human existence up until the last few millennia or so.