If you’re an avid gym goer or have read up on nutritional strategies for body recomposition whether its gaining weight or losing weight, you’re probably familiar with the popular 6 meals a day or frequent small meals throughout the day. The said strategy has been said to
– Elevate your metabolism through Thermogenic Effect of Food (TEF)
– Assists in Adding or preserving muscle mass by keeping the body in a constant anabolic state
– Maintains your blood sugar levels (insulin) providing you with a constant level of energy
– As well as reducing the risk of overeating since you’re constantly feeding and hence will be less prone to having big meals resulting in a high caloric excess
Is this approach successful? Yes. Is it the best approach? YES & NO. This approach is successful and many athletes, bodybuilders and your average joe have gotten results incorporating this strategy into their diets as well as myself. I followed it religiously and have seen great results. One thing I dreaded about using the 6-meal-approach is that it was time-consuming and required high up keep just like dating a high maintenance drama queen girlfriend that is PMS-ing 24/7 (sorry ladies).
I constantly carried around Tupperware and made sure to eat every 3 hours. Id get frustrated if I was late to eat by a half hour as well as sometimes avoided social events to get my meal in. Needless to say, it worked but it wasn’t the easiest to abide to. Not to mention that the so-called Thermogenic advantages of frequent meals have been ruled out as a myth by countless researches performed on the subject.
However, like I mentioned with anybody’s re-composition goal, there are countless routes to your destination. You need to pick the one that is most convenient to you. The easier it is for you to follow your routine, the less likely you are to fail or jump ship. If you are able to follow this protocol and it fits your daily routine, then by all means keep doing it.
Now, im writing this post to highlight “Intermittent Fasting”, a new trend in the nutritional field that is starting to gain a spotlight.
Intermittent Fasting was followed by a select few but its thought that the person that initially publicized it was Marting Berkham;k He’s got the most credit for that and maintains 4-5% body fat year round. Intermittent Fasting is just what the name implies. There are two stages; Fasting & Feeding. There are 4 protocols to follow;
– Fasted training
– Early morning fasted training
– One pre-workout meal
– Two pre-workout meals
Intermittent Fasting Protocol
The idea behind it is basically a fast period of 16 hours (including Sleep) followed by an eating window of 8 hours making up the 24 hours in a day. The way you structure it depends on your workout timing. You are allowed water, non caloric beverage like tea, black coffee, diet sodas etc.
Most of us work, so this will be geared towards people who work out in the morning before work/uni or during their lunch break. You supplement with 10g of BCAA 15 minutes prior to your training and following your workout you have 10g of BCAA every hour up to noon which is when you’ll have your first meal. The first meal should comprise of 20-40% of your total intake for the day. Have a couple of more meals up to 8/9 pm assuming you break your fast at noon, and then it’s no more eating till the next day. I like this set up since it allows you to work out as well as leaves some time after work for social events.
One / Two meal pre-workout
In case you don’t like working out on an empty stomach, this will be a better approach. You can break your fast prior to working out (also better suited for people who work out after work). In either case, you break your fast at noon or 1 (lunch break) with 20-25% of your calories for the day. If you are following the one meal pre workout approach, you would ideally workout a few hours after your first meal; say when you get off work. If you are following the 2-meal pre workout, you’ll have a meal at noon and then have a small meal (fast acting carbs and protein) an hour or so before working out. Then after training you have your post workout meal similar to your first meal (calorie wise) and feed up to 8/9 pm.
Here are samples of the set ups posted on Martin’s site
One Meal Pre-workout
12-1 PM: or around lunch/noon: Pre-workout meal. Approximately, 20-25% of daily total caloric intake.
3-4 PM: Training should happen a few hours after the pre-workout meal.
4-5 PM: Post-workout meal (largest meal).
8-9 PM: Last meal before the fast.
Two Meals Pre-workout
12-1 PM: or around lunch/noon: Meal one. Approximately 20-25% of daily total calorie intake.
4-5 PM: Pre-workout meal. Roughly equal to the first meal.
8-9 PM: Post-workout meal (largest meal).
My Experience on the Diet
Like I said, I wouldn’t post up advocating something I haven’t tried myself. I dropped the 6 Meal a day approach and for the past 6 months have been following this protocol. To say the least, this definitely works. I wouldn’t say there’s anything magical about this approach since at the end of the day your total caloric intake is what matters (energy balance) not to mention your food choices.
This works because well it’s convenient. You can live your life without having to worry about when your next meal is going to be or what to pack for your frequent meals. Also, while not proved yet, your body is believed to access fat stores during the fasted state as well as making you more tolerant to carbs
Advantages i saw;
– You better understand and differentiate the feeling of hunger and just wanting to eat
– better mental focus during the day
– able to add variety to my diet.
– becomes relatively easy to fast after the first day
It also allows you to have a high volume of food which I would say every1 enjoys; you’re able to have a huge meal, feel full and satisfied yet see yourself lose the weight or make gains without feeling guilty. Apart from the psychological benefits, scientifically it has been proven that long bouts of withholding feeding have the following benefits*
- cellular turnover and repair (called autophagocytosis)
- fat burning (increase in fatty acid oxidation later in the fast)
- growth hormone release later in the fast (hormonally mediated)
- metabolic rate later in the fast (stimulated by epinephrine and norepinephrine release)
- appetite control (perhaps through changes in PPY and ghrelin)
- blood sugar control (by lowering blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity)
- cardiovascular function (by offering protection against ischemic injury to the heart)
- effectiveness of chemotherapy (by allowing for higher doses more frequently)
- neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity (by offering protection against neurotoxins)
*Excerpt from renound nutritionist John M. Berardi
This approach is rapidly gaining popularity amongst the fitness community and in my opinion provides a more realistic and maintainable approach to dieting and adding muscle. If your tired of the frequent meal dogma or just bored with your current dietary plan, I recommend giving it a shot. At first, I was skeptic due to the past presumptions of fitness pioneers saying that if you don’t eat every 3 hours your muscle mass will shrivel, yet I seemed to maintain and even add-on muscle while using this approach. I’ve also had a recent injury putting me out of the Gym for over 3 months and to attest, muscle doesn’t simply shrink if you don’t train or have frequent feedings.
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