Meal Timing Myths: Debunked!
A lot is made of meal timing in the fitness industry:
“You shouldn’t eat carbs after 6.”
“You HAVE to have a post-workout protein shake if you want to build muscle.”
“You need to eat every 2 to 3 hours to keep your metabolism fired up and help you burn fat.”
You might have heard one, two, or even all three of these before, and perhaps you’ve even tried to follow them. It’s pretty difficult, right?
You’re already trying to control your calories, monitor portion sizes, count macros and stick to relatively healthy foods while allowing yourself some “treats,” and now all of a sudden, you have these new, crazy, strict meal timing rules to adhere to as well.
The good news is – you don’t need to!
In fact, meal timing is grossly overstated and something that you needn’t worry about too much. Here’s why:
The Metabolism Myth
Many folks believe that they need to eat every few hours to keep their metabolism high, but this isn’t the case.
When you eat, your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories) does rise, but this doesn’t mean that eating more frequently is better. The size of the rise correlates with the calorie content of a meal, as well as how often you eat, so a 600-calorie meal would have twice the metabolism boost of a 300-calorie meal.
Therefore, provided your daily calorie intake is the same, it doesn’t matter whether you eat two, four or 10 times per day!
Let’s say you burn off 10% of the calories you eat at every meal through digestion.
Three 800-calorie meals = 3 x 80 calories burned = 240 calories burned.
Six 400-calorie meals = 6 x 40 calories burned = 240 calories burned.
They’re the same!
Workout Nutrition Doesn’t Matter (Too Much.)
In the grand scheme of things, workout nutrition comes well down the order of priorities, and calories, macronutrients and micronutrients are all far more critical.
Digestion takes a long time, so there’s really no need to have a high-carb meal right before training, or slam a protein shakes as soon as you’ve finished lifting.
That said, you do want to ensure that you have enough energy to get in a good workout, which may mean having a meal that contains a good, nutrient-dense carb source, as well as some lean protein 1 to 3 hours before lifting. You also need to make sure you’re recovering adequately, so it’s a good idea to have a similar meal again within 1 to 2 hours of finishing.
Practical Tips for Meal Timing and Size
– Get calories and macros in order before worrying about meal timing.
– Eat to a schedule that suits your own preferences and don’t try to run your life around meal times.
– Don’t sweat workout nutrition too much – it doesn’t really matter unless you’re an endurance athlete or training twice a day.
– There’s no need to cut carbs by a certain time of day.
– Aim to eat roughly similar sized meals throughout the day so that each one is balanced and provides sustained energy.
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