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How many meals per day if I just want to lose weight?
Many people think that if you want to burn fat efficiently, you have to eat little and often. However, there is a faster and more convenient way to do it. First of all, you shouldn’t focus on meal frequency. Instead, focus on how much food you eat per day and based on the goal you want to reach. If you are in a calorie deficit (5-10% below the amount of calories to maintain your body weight), eating 8 smaller meals per days instead of 3 bigger meals, would just have a tiny effect on the speed at which you torch fat. On top of that it may cost you a little fortune. So let’s stop with this myth, eating several small meals is not a magic solution to burn fat quickly. You can eat how often you want whether it is 3 big meals a day, or just a several meals. In short, what matters the most if you just want to lose weight is the number of calories you consume over a period of 24h. Why? because the total calories consumed count more than frequency.
What about eating to build muscle?
What if your goal is maximum muscle gain? Thinking that eating more meals will systematically increase your metabolic rate is just a myth. When it comes to diet, nothing is that simple, because we all have different metabolisms, schedules and lifestyles. So, you better eat the number of meals that fit your lifestyle and only your lifestyle. Not the one of those bulk up guys you may see posing on YouTube, magazines or Instagram. If you have normal life with a job, daily transportation, a family etc. you may think that it would be beneficial to eat a constant stream of nutrients. Yet the spacing of meals is in fact more beneficial for muscle gain. This is due to the way fall and rise of amino acids prime your system. In that case, eating more than 3 meals a day, will bring you no extra benefits, based on the total amount of calories eaten daily. Keep in mind that what you want is to feed your muscles, not your belly! So focus on your calorie and protein intake (between 25 to 30 gr per meal) and train hard to increase your strength in order to improve your muscle growth. You should also consider adding a pre-workout and a post-workout snacks in order to fuel your muscle.
What about eating to burn fat?
If your main goal is to only burn fat, go for a 5-10% calorie deficit diet. The most efficient way would be to eat 3 meals per day. However, on the long run you may also lose muscular mass. This is due to a catabolic effect, especially if you have high intensity workouts several days a week. This is why you must make sure your ratio carbohydrates, fat and protein are structured and adapted to your training and goal. Indeed, calorie deficit is great to burn fat, but it is just a short-term solution if you want to keep your muscular mass. Beware if you eat fewer than 3 meals per day you may end up overeating and choosing unhealthy foods. If you seek long-term, go for carb cycling with long periods of carbohydrate restriction coupled with short windows of carbohydrate referring. In that case eat high-protein, high-fiber foods because they will help you to feel full longer. On a low carb diet, eat a maximum of 3 times per day and add good fat to your diet. This way you can teach your body to become “fat adapted,” meaning it will burn stored body fat for energy.
What if I want to increase my lean body mass?
In a nutshell, to increase lean body mass eating 4 to 5 meals per day is not a bad thing. However you must keep an eye on the macro-nutrients and remember that your lean protein intake is one of the keys. Please have a look at this interesting list of the 43 High Protein Food For Weight Loss. If you workout regularly, like 5 days a week, you will need about 2g of protein per kilo of body weight per day. This is the reason why protein bars can help you. They can provide you calories, protein and good nutrients, as long as they are made with natural ingredients like the Iron Fit Food Protein bars. They are convenient and easy to carry on so that you can eat them anywhere anytime. Especially after a workout, when the body is stimulated to increase muscle protein synthesis. Burning fat, is not just about “calories in calories out”, but about eating the right food at the right time! Regarding the amount of calories, increasing your daily calories by 5 to 10% would be sufficient in promoting lean muscle growth.
Different goals, different diets.
At the end of the day, how many times per day you should eat depend on your goal and of your metabolism. So to get the best answer, you must test, test and test ! If you are looking to gain lean muscular mass, you may need to eat 4 to 5 times a day by promoting protein and avoiding carbohydrates that stimulate too much insulin secretion. As long as you do your Fitness session with enough intensity and you do enough cardio on a daily basis. On the other hand if your aim is just to gain mass, let’s say you’ve trained hard so you created a higher demand for nutrients. So you need to eat enough carbohydrate, fat, protein and food that will help you get the mass you need. But it doesn’t mean you have to eat sweets and junk food! Try to focus on a source of quality animal protein associated with a source of slow carbohydrates: pasta, rice etc… Whatever your goal, metabolism, training frequency or Fitness experience, keep in mind that the main key is the quality of your food more than the quantity.
Ben – Iron Fit Food