In almost every consultation column, in almost every article on the internet, they say: spread your meals! Eat 5 or 6 little meals instead of the 3 big ones. In this article I will examine the reasons given for this recommendation, and test them against existing scientific knowledge.
One claim the 5-6 meal army states is that eating large meals cause some of the consumed food to not be digested, and stored as fat instead. On top of that – the claim goes on – in the long periods of time between meals the body would have nothing to digest, and as a result would reach catabolic state. Meaning, it would “eat” on its own muscle mass.
That is not true. In fact, the vast majority of digestion activity is done not in the stomach – but in the organ that follows it in the digestion chain, the small intestine. Since the stomach releases food into the small intestine in a gradual manner, the body can digest large amounts of food in an effective way.
This also kills the second part of the claim. Since a larger meal simply gets digested over a long period of time – rather than not digested at all – the body gets its supply of amino acids from the proteins in that meal meal over a longer period of time, and as a result, does not reach catabolic state between meals.
Another claim being made in favor of more, smaller meals is that eating many small meals in the optimum thing for your metabolism. Your metabolism, they say, is kept working all the time and has to deal with smaller amounts of food each time – it can do so more effectively than having to deal with 3 big meals. Many studies have been made to test that claim – and unequivocally, it turns out to be false.
Let me set the record straight here:
eating many small meals is likely to help you lose more fat than if you eat fewer big meals. That’s probably why they thought it helps the metabolism – if you lose fat this way, your metabolism must be working better, Right?
Wrong. The reason for that is not metabolism. The real reason is that many small meals mean a more stable level of blood sugar during the day. As a result, your hunger is suppressed and on a whole, you simply eat less. That may be good news for fat loss, but not for muscle building.
In fact, while the many-small-meals-a-day approach is still very popular – many bodybuilders today are exploring a dieting system along an open lines, nicknamed intermittent fasting . I’ll explore this system in one of my next articles.
To sum it all up – recent studies show that the two approaches are pretty much tied in terms of digestive effectiveness. So my suggestion to you – choose the system that suits you. If you like 3 or 4 bigger meals, that’s fine. 5 or 6 smaller meals work for you? That’s fine too. It’s very difficult to stick to a meal plan if it does not fit your lifestyle.