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The Six Meal Myth and Nutrient Timing


When many of us first start out bodybuilding and changing our lifestyle we are subject to a myriad of sources making endless claims and it can be hard to know what to believe. One claim I hear all the time is that eating six meals a day keeps your blood sugar levels more stable and makes the metabolism faster. There are so many people saying it so it must be true. Right?

Wrong… I’ll tell you why.

The myth has been propagated for quite some time without any evidence to back it up. In fact, numerous studies have shown that it doesn’t matter how many meals you eat during the day. In one case, subjects ate all their calories in three meals and then ate the same number of calories in six meals with no effect. Most other studies revealed similar results.

At this point the data suggests that this myth is likely false, so you can stop worrying about having to get in those six meals.

Nutrient Timing

Nutrient timing isn’t important for people who exercise casually. People that are just weight lifters or want to get in shape don’t have to pay much attention to it because they’re probably not looking to maximize performance and/or muscle gain. Nutrient Timing is the idea that ingesting nutrients (protein and carbs) post or during the workout and after will increase both performance and muscle gains.

Energy Phase

During the energy phase (while working out) energy demands are at their highest. Energy is used by the skeletal muscle or ATP. ATP is produced from macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fats so they indirectly contribute to muscle contraction. The high rates of energy demand are met by ingested and stored nutrients. This breakdown is catabolic by definition, but the workout period is marked by both anabolic and catabolic effects. The nutrient intake can shift the anabolic/catabolic balance during exercise, enhancing the anabolic effects while minimizing the catabolic effects. A protein and carbohydrate drink ingested immediately before or during exercise can increase skeletal muscle blood flow and enrich the blood with glucose and amino acids, reducing glycogen depletion. It also is important to note that the carbs and protein should be taken in the form of a liquid, and you must drink an adequate amount of water in order to stave off dehydration.

Anabolic Phase

The anabolic phase takes place immediately after a workout and lasts about an hour, during which the cells are ready for muscle building. Even though this phase is typically anabolic, it can remain catabolic if there is a lack of nutrients. Without proper nutrition, the period immediately after strength or endurance training is marked by muscle catabolism – the continuing breakdown of muscle. Typically muscle breaks down and then starts to build back up later in the recovery cycle, but new studies have come out showing that supplementing with protein and carbohydrates shortly after exercise can result in additional muscle growth and quality.

It is important to note that the quantities of carbohydrates and protein to be ingested will vary depending on several factors including weight, body fat percentage, exercise intensity and exercise duration


Thanks for reading