I was 23 years old, working in a chain gym in Ottawa, Canada.
My “lunch” looked the same every day.
‘Lunch’ is in quotes because I didn’t bring a lunch, I brought a stack of 4 containers, each containing a mini-lunch.
At the time, science told us that eating frequent meals was the key to dynamic fat loss and muscle gain.
If you went longer than 3 hours between meals your body flipped out and started eating it’s own muscle.
As if that’s not bad enough, your body also assumed you must be facing a famine and began storing body fat in an effort to prevent it’s worst nightmare. Death by starvation.
To sum this up, if you don’t eat every 3 hours, you end up fat, soft, and weak.
As a physique-conscious 23 year old who helped others get in shape for a living, this was frightening. Especially because my schedule made it nearly impossible to obey the 3 hour rule.
The trainers schedule is an odd one. You start early, training the dedicated before-work crowd.
This blends into the stay-at-home mom/dad and entrepreneur crowd, who train between 8–11 a.m.
There’s a lull between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Once work lets out, people pour back into the gym until 8 or 9 p.m.
This meant I was on the gym floor for up to 5 hours at a time without eating.
Let me tell you, the panic that struck when I realized I was 2 hours past meal time rattled me to my bones.
And this happened every day.
But as the years passed, I got bigger, stronger, and leaner.
I must be an anomaly.
Not quite. Let’s fast forward a few years, when study’s like these (study 1, study 2) began to demolish the very foundation traditional nutrition philosophy stood on.
It turns out how frequently you eat your meals doesn’t matter at all when it comes to burning fat or building muscle.
What matters most is how many calories you eat at the end of the day, end of the week, end of the month, and so on.
Whether those calories are consumed in 9 meals or 2 meals doesn’t matter.
This is fantastic news. Now, if you wake up late and miss breakfast, you aren’t at risk of shriveling down to an emaciated shell of your former self.
And if you have a busy afternoon and miss your 2 p.m. protein shake and banana, you don’t need to worry about blowing up like a balloon because your body thinks you’re about to die of starvation (although, it might feel like it).
If you really want to burn body fat and/or build muscle, how many calories you eat each day deserves your attention. Not how frequently those calories are consumed.
For more information on calories, how many you should be eating, and in what nutrient ratios, click here.
Remember, if you want to burn fat and/or build muscle, how many calories you eat is what matters most.
As for the best time to eat those calories: whenever the hell you want.
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