6 meals a day dilemma.
Why, for who, where it all started and why it stayed.
After another question about my six pack diet — how I eat to have a six pack all the time and after a remark, “You must be eating 5–6 meals a day bird portions!”
A question popped up in my head, “Where did it all, 6 meals a day, come from?” I kind of believed it my whole life, that it might have some benefit for weight loss and getting the leanest you can be, even though for me personally it never worked, even when I was very young and had little experience and followed 6 meals a day protocol religiously, starting out in the health/fitness/personal training industry.
I never questioned it really. It was what everyone else was doing, what everyone else was saying from every magazine and fitness article, I never asked myself where it all came from, and why people decided to follow this 6 meals a day thing. I never questioned it. Until now.
It became clear to me, that it is kind of odd, when you think about it, to artificially force yourself to eat often to lose weight, never really feeling full, having to always think about your next meal, adding another schedule (eating schedule) to already busy life. And everyone simply assumed you had to do it for your best body — lean and toned, with great muscle definition.
Where did it all come from?
After doing research online, and thinking about all my recently read books and studies’ reports on nutrition and diet, weight loss and fitness, I discovered, that 6 meals a day have no benefits for the body — it doesn’t increase your base metabolism, and it does not makes you less hungry, and it does not makes you magically lose weight faster and easier. There are no studies of any kind proving ANY of that! But there are studies, that show negative effects of frequent eating — impaired function of our mitochondria (energy producing organ in our cells), it’s bad for longevity and accelerates aging, grazing all the time stimulates your digestion and very often you end up eating more, not less (unless you are really into it, measuring every morsel of food you put into your mouth — that alone would make me go nuts!), not to mention you never feel full eating bird size portions, that are not designed for human stomach.
So why did it all start then? All this 6 meals a day nonsense?
It started with people, for who it does make sense to eat that often.
Bodybuilders. Professional athletes. Ectomorphs (those lucky skinny people who never put on weight).
To build huge muscles you got to eat a lot and have surplus of energy. Plus all the heavy lifting takes energy. Proper recovery takes energy. Eating about 5000–6000 and more calories of healthy food a day is actually hard, and not so comfortable for the stomach, if you try to put all the food in 2–3 meals, without feeling sleepy and needing some rest after each meal. So bodybuilders divided the food into smaller frequent meals, so it is more comfortable for the stomach and life, and so that more nutrients are absorbed efficiently. And remember, when it all started, there were very few good quality supplements if any to add “easy” calories to daily food intake, so bodybuilders had to make a lot of efforts to consume all the food their body needed for accelerated muscle growth and proper recovery/training adaptation. Many meals totally made sense for professional bodybuilders to bulk up. And I’m talking about PROs, building a lot of muscle, not someone who just work outs. 2–3 meals a day, when hungry, from whole food for non-pros would deliver the best results and all the needed nutrition.
And of course, when supplement companies sprouted like mushrooms after the rain, they picked up the trend and started advertising all kinds of meal replacements and protein shakes, bars etc. as a convenient way to get additional nutrition for massive gains, somehow making it look, that just by consuming those magical potions, you will grow muscles and get lean without all the hours of workouts and heavy lifting that pros put in daily.
It’s also very profitable for food industry to make you eat more often. They know too well, the more you eat, the more you want to eat, the more food products you will buy. So everyone is happy… Except you and your six pack, that never gets to see the light of day.
Endurance athletes, runners, jumpers, cyclists, tennis players, football and basketball players, all kind of pro athletes, training few hours a day every day, competing, putting their bodies through enormous amount of stress daily — they can easily burn through on active days 10 000 calories and more. How would you get all that in a healthy way in 2–3 meals? Very difficult. So then it makes sense to eat often, or at least consume nutrition from foods or supplements more often.
Those skinny people, we all hate, who eat anything, never putting on any weight… Any kind of weight. For them it’s challenging to put any muscle too, to have more of a sexy-pumped look, so I’m not that envious of them, plus I do not want to be hungry all the time having to think about food often. I like my big few meals and feeling hungry rarely, easily putting on muscle, when I want to.
Anyway. Skinny people, people with higher than average metabolism, who do burn through food fast or just can’t absorb nutrition from what they eat, because of inefficient digestion, those people also might benefit and might need to eat often, especially if they train a lot, and especially if they do want to put on some muscle.
For the rest of us, 6 meals a day, makes no sense — it’s not enjoyable, it doesn’t make you a better athlete, it doesn’t help to put on muscle and get leaner, it doesn’t help to lose weight, and it’s plainly a headache to have to force yourself to eat like a bird and always think about food preparation, eating on the schedule! It’s pain in the ass, that is based on no science, and totally against our nature and our evolutionary evolved metabolism — how do you imagine a hunter-gatherer, running around with his meal-prep bag in the jungle, hunting his next meal? It doesn’t make ANY sense!
Something interesting to read to further think about eating on schedule, any kind of schedule.
You don’t get healthy and stay healthy.
HEALTH is a DAILY PRACTICE. One bite at a time.
Daily Bite of Health
EAT WHEN HUNGRY. ONLY.