Food quality, quantity, and timing all work together with the addition of exercise to increase your ability to train hard, recover from your workouts, gain lean muscle, and burn more fat. To maximize results, you must provide fuel to your body when it needs it most, otherwise your nutrition plan and training program may not be as effective as it could be.
Bodybuilders tend to do things differently than the average dieter. It’s an extreme sport which requires dedication and highly structured meal plans. Bodybuilders eat on time and don’t skip meals. They also typically eat specific pre- and post-workout meals. Four to six smaller meals are typically eaten rather than three big ones. Traditionally the average person eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This meal schedule can still work if you are eating healthy foods that give you all the nutrients you need and are hitting your goals for calories and macronutrients.
Why do most athletes eat four to six meals a day? Many reasons have been introduced over the years, including more energy, less hunger, better muscle growth, increased fat loss, and psychological advantages. It’s a possibility that increased metabolism is also a reason. So, let’s break down some of the more common reasons in favor of eating often and on a regular schedule.
1. It gives you the amount of fuel you need for great workouts.
When you train like an athlete, you burn more calories and you have to feed your body like an athlete. The more often and the more intense your workouts are, the more calories you need and the more important nutrient timing becomes. More frequent meals allow an athlete to fuel and refuel optimally.
2. It provides a steady flow of fuel and helps keep energy levels high.
Eating regular meals with natural, slow-releasing carbs, fiber, lean protein and healthy fats prevent energy ups and downs. No more mid-morning crashes, no more drowsy late afternoon spells, no more brain fog; just steady, high energy all day long. This also means more energy for workouts. Many people who struggle regulating their blood sugar find it valuable to spread out their food intake to help stabilize their blood sugar.
3. It helps reduce appetite, control cravings, and prevent binges.
Hunger becomes a problem when you go a long time without food. Mid-afternoon crashes or nighttime cravings that send you running to the cupboard for the peanut butter jar are often the result of skipping breakfast, leaving long gaps between meals, or eating randomly without any kind of schedule. If you eat more, hunger is rarely a concern and psychologically you feel satisfied.
4. It’s easier to hit your protein needs.
You need more protein when training and weight lifting. Getting the optimal daily amount is much easier when it’s spread out over four or five servings compared to trying to cram it into two or three. Getting the optimal amount of protein supports muscle growth.
5. It builds discipline.
Structured meals plans and schedules promote discipline. Structure, numbers, and timing develops discipline and attention to detail. People with highly structured plans follow their plans better, pay attention to detail, and reduce their risk of impulsive eating. When you are disciplined about eating, you will become disciplined about training and other areas of your life.
6. It promotes healthy attitudes and behaviors toward food and fat loss.
Eating often is far healthier psychologically than deprivation diets. Athletes think of food as fuel and building blocks of health and muscle, not something to fear. In a world where many dieters are starving themselves and are afraid to eat, try looking at each meal as an opportunity to nourish, build, and energize your body!+ Share