6. Meal frequency and timing
How to turbo-charge your metabolism.
Date: 4/9/2009 7:23:16 AM ( 4 y ) ... viewed 1445 times
Having a "fast" metabolism means that you're burning calories efficiently all the time, whether you're resting or training. When you have a slow metabolism, your diet doesn't work as well and even a well-designed training program is rendered less effective. Slow-metabolism syndrome is why it's possible for a person eating very few calories and "aerobicizing their brains out" to see little or no results. Your mission is clear: Find ways to speed up your metabolism and get it revving as fast as possible.
Of all the nutrition strategies in the world today, the practice of eating small, frequent meals - one approximately every three waking hours - is by far the most effective way to speed up your metabolism. It's so effective, in fact, that when you see the results, you may wonder why you've ever had any difficulty losing body fat in the past.
Coincidentally, eating a properly constructed meal every three hours is also the only way to effectively build and maintain muscle. The longer you consistently practice the five to six meals per day discipline, the more muscle you'll develop. The more muscle you develop, the faster your metabolism will become - it's a positive, self-reinforcing cycle.
Why you will never reach your maximum potential without eating five or six meals a day
Just how important is frequent eating? Well, let me put it this way: Comparing three "squares" to six meals a day is like comparing a 450 horsepower V-10, 8.0 liter Dodge Viper to a four cylinder Honda Civic. There's nothing wrong with a Honda Civic it will get you where you want to go - eventually - but if you wanted to get somewhere in a hurry, which engine would you rather have? With a top speed of 192 mph, I bet you'd take the Viper wouldn't you?
I'm not saying you can't get any results on three meals a day - of course you can. A traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner, carefully selected using the guidelines in this program and combined with aerobic and resistance training, will definitely get you some noticeable results. Unfortunately, it will take longer, and if you have any substantial degree of endomorph in your body type mix, it might take much longer. If you have ambitious goals, then five or six meals per day is an absolute requirement.
What is the optimal number of meals? 4, 5, 6, 7... More than 7?
ONE or TWO meals a day is a disaster. If you haven't been eating at least three times a day, you are causing serious damage to your metabolism. If you want to get your metabolism back up to speed, read the rest of this section very carefully and follow the instructions to the letter.
If you eat FOUR meals a day, making intelligent food choices and combining your foods in the ideal ratios, you'll see substantial results. But you'll only get about sixty or seventy percent of the results you'd get from six meals a day and it will take you longer to get there, if you do get there.
FIVE meals a day? Now we're getting somewhere. Five meals a day will give you good results on a weekly basis. If you're a large, active male, you could still do better by adding a sixth meal.
SIX small meals a day is the answer! Two simple facts of physiology will explain why: (1) It takes about three hours to digest each meal, and (2) protein (amino acids) lasts about three hours in the bloodstream. If you sleep eight hours per night, that leaves 16 waking hours in the day. Six meals over 16 hours equal one meal every 2.7 hours. If your goal is five meals, then your target is one meal every 3.2 hours. Average it up for simplicity, and that's where the guideline of one meal every three hours comes from. Five meals a day seems to be the optimal number for women and six meals is ideal for men. The difference is because men require on average, about 600-900 calories per day more than women.
So, if five or six meals a day is good, then seven or eight or even ten must be even better, right? Well, not exactly. You could experiment with one extra meal and it might produce slightly better results. However, it takes a minimum of two to two and a half hours to digest a meal, so it doesn't make any sense to eat more than six or seven times per day. If you did, you would only be piling food on top of undigested food. How much you eat isn't as important as how much you fully digest and assimilate. Unless each of your meals was tiny, you also might be eating too many calories for the day.
If your goal is to gain muscle and you're that die-hard (dare I say crazy?), then knock yourself out. A light protein meal in the middle of the night might fend off some of the muscle loss that occurs naturally overnight as you sleep. But there's a trade off uninterrupted sleep is important too. If your number one priority is fat loss, you're better off not eating late in the evening at all, let alone in the middle of the night. Get your zzz's - you're gonna need them with the training program.
Why you might resist the five or six meals a day idea- and why you must GET OVER IT if you want to be the proud owner of a lean, fat-free body!
You probably know at least one person who violates this meal frequency rule, maybe a friend who eats no breakfast and two gigantic meals like a pizza for lunch and a Big Mac and French Fries for dinner. Despite these two gluttonous feedings, they never get fat and they look like they're in excellent shape. After seeing such annoying displays of genetic advantage, you might say to yourself that this meal frequency business is a bunch of nonsense.
However, I must caution you; if you refuse to accept the habit of eating small frequent meals, you may see some results, but you'll never reach your maximum potential. If your metabolism and genetic disposition are geared towards gaining fat easily, you can't afford to mess around with three meals a day. And you definitely can't skip meals - EVER! Pay no attention to your mesomorph friends and just do what it takes for you.
The reason most beginners have a hard time accepting the five or six meals concept is because what I'm suggesting, in many cases, is that some people actually eat MORE FOOD than they've ever eaten before; the food is simply spread out into smaller portions. This idea might sound contrary to everything you've ever heard about losing weight. I even said so myself in our previous talk about calories; you have to eat less than you burn in order to lose weight, right?
True, calories count. But the amazing thing about eating frequently is that IT MAKES YOU BURN MORE CALORIES! Five or six meals a day accelerates your body's natural rate of calorie burning.
Why skipping meals is one of the cardinal sins of fat burning nutrition...and how to eat more food and lose more fat at the same time
Skipping meals (or leaving long gaps between meals) is the cardinal sin of fat burning and muscle-building nutrition. Missing meals slows down your metabolism, causes muscle loss and triggers your body's starvation responses.
Suppose you skip breakfast and you haven't eaten since 8:00 p.m. the previous evening. If you eat lunch at 12:00 pm, you've gone 16 hours without any food. At this point, you are not only in a highly catabolic (muscle wasting) state, you're also sending an unmistakable starvation signal to your body.
If skipping meals is the cardinal sin of fat burning and muscle building nutrition, then skipping breakfast is a capital crime suited for the death penalty! And yet "everybody" is doing it!
Suppose you're in a hurry to get to work in the morning and you bolt out the door without eating breakfast. Your first meal of the day is lunch at 12:00 noon. It's moderately sized; let's say 500 calories, consisting of a turkey sandwich on wheat and a banana. Sounds fairly healthy so far. By your customary dinnertime of 6:00 p.m., you are ravenously hungry, and you polish off a massive plate of pasta for a total of 800 calories. Later that night you're still hungry and craving something sweet. Some cookies and low fat milk do the trick - about 300 calories. Then you go right to sleep. Although far from perfect, this menu doesn't sound like a total disaster to the average, uniformed person.. . But IT IS! It's a nightmare!
If we add up those calories, it totals only 1600 for the entire day. In theory, at least according to the calorie calculations you did previously, you should be losing fat - quite rapidly if you're a man. So why aren't you? It's because you're doing EVERYTHING possible to encourage your body to store fat: You are going catabolic by leaving 18 hours between dinner and the next day's lunch. This causes muscle loss and metabolic downgrade. Because you've only eaten one meal during the day, you're famished and you eat too much at dinner. Even though you're in a 24-hour calorie deficit, this causes fat storage anyway because you've eaten more than you can handle at one sitting. By "starving and stuffing," you've also set yourself up for serious cravings at night; usually the wrong foods -like cookies or ice cream!
In the long run, this type of diet is a sure-fire way to slow down your metabolism, lose muscle and gain body fat. On the other hand, 2400 calories' spread out into five or six small meals of 400 - 480 calories each (about 300-350 calories per meal for women), will increase energy, accelerate muscle growth, and speed up your metabolism without fat storage. Frequent eating can actually allow you to consume up to 50% more calories without storing an ounce of it as fat!
The 7 reasons why frequent meals are critical to your success in losing fat permanently without losing muscle
1. Frequent eating speeds up your metabolism due to the thermic effect
Every physiological process that occurs in your body uses energy. Keeping your heart beating and circulating blood uses energy. Creating new body cells requires energy. So does breathing. Even thinking burns calories. Digestion is no exception. The mechanical breakdown and absorption of food requires a substantial number of calories.
Some of the calories in the foods you eat are burned off just to digest them, so the net amount of calories absorbed is actually less than the amount contained in the food. This process has several names such as "Dietary-induced thermo genesis," the "Specific dynamic action of food," or most commonly, the "Thermic effect of food." The thermic effect peaks about an hour after each meal and begins to drop about three hours after the meal has been completely digested.
You may have heard the expression, "negative calories." This refers to certain foods, such as asparagus or lettuce, which have a high thermic effect and a low calorie density. It's almost impossible for these foods to be stored as fat because most of their calories are burned off just to digest them!
The fact that dietary fats have only a 3% thermic effect is an important point. There has been a trend in recent years away from high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets towards eating higher fat and higher protein with fewer carbohydrates. To a point, this is a step in the right direction, but the more fat you eat beyond what you need for your essential fatty acid needs, the slower your metabolism becomes. One reason why diets promoting high fat (above 30% of daily calories) are ineffective is because high fat diets are not thermic!
2. Frequent meals prevent binges and control cravings
In addition to the metabolism-boosting, energy-increasing and muscle sparing benefits of frequent eating, you'll also find yourself less likely to binge or get cravings. If you're eating every three hours, you'll always feel very satisfied and hunger will rarely be an issue because mealtime always comes around so soon.
The starving and stuffing pattern of eating sets you up for uncontrollable cravings and massive binges later on. When blood sugar plummets from long periods without food, it's nearly impossible to control the hormonally created hunger that follows. You become ravenous. When you're this hungry, you couldn't care less about eating lean proteins and complex carbs, you just want food and you want it now!
Have you ever had strong cravings late in the day for specific foods you don't normally eat and you don't know why? If so, think back to what you ate earlier in the day. Chances are you were NOT eating every three hours or you ate fast-burning sugars by themselves. You set off the hunger alarm by skipping breakfast or leaving big gaps between meals. If you don't want those cravings again, close the gaps and eat every three hours.
3. Frequent meals help maintain high energy levels by regulating blood sugar and insulin levels
Here's one of the first benefits you'll notice from following this eating plan: Your energy will skyrocket almost overnight. Changes in your body composition will take place slowly though steadily, but starting on the very first week you begin the program, you'll get the instant gratification of having more energy than you've ever felt before. No more ups and downs; no more mid morning energy crashes; no more late afternoon drowsy spells, just solid, steady, high energy all day long - and more energy for your workouts too. Here's why:
When you eat carbohydrates, they're digested and absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of glucose (blood sugar). This triggers the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. The amount of insulin released will correspond to the amount and type of carbohydrates consumed. When small amounts of carbohydrates and insulin-stimulating foods are consumed, there's a small output of insulin. When large amounts of carbohydrates and insulin-stimulating foods are consumed, there is a large rise in insulin. When carbohydrates are consumed alone, there's a faster rise in insulin than when they're consumed in combination with protein. When simple, refined carbohydrates are consumed, there's also a greater rise in insulin. One of insulin's jobs is to transport the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used for energy or stored as glycogen for later use.
If you over-consume carbohydrates or if you consume the wrong types of carbohydrates, there will be a sharp peak in blood sugar followed by a sharp rise in insulin. The over-secretion of insulin will quickly remove the sugar from your bloodstream and your blood sugar will drop to lower than normal levels (hypoglycemia). Hypoglycemia will cause fatigue and will trigger the intense hunger and cravings that can derail even the strongest willpower. The result is, you invariably consume more sugar to satisfy your cravings, and then the energy peak and energy crash cycle repeats itself over and over again.
Frequent eating with the right types of carbohydrates combined with lean proteins and small amounts of healthy "good" fats will stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels, and this is what prevents the energy spikes and crashes. This eating pattern will also keep your muscle glycogen levels high, which guarantees that you have plenty of energy to fuel high-intensity weight training.
4. Frequent meals are ANABOLIC: They help promote muscle growth by regulating insulin levels and providing a steady flow of amino acids into muscle cells
The high insulin levels that follow the consumption of refined carbohydrates are definitely undesirable, but a moderate and steady output of insulin is necessary for muscle growth and glycogen storage. Insulin is a powerful anabolic hormone because one of its major roles is to shuttle glucose and amino acids into the muscle cells where they can be used for recovery and muscle growth. By eating a small to moderately sized meal containing protein every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, you provide a steady flow of amino acids into your bloodstream. When you eat complex carbohydrates with your protein every three hours, there is a moderate, but not excessive release of insulin, which delivers the amino acids to "hungry" muscle cells. A steady flow of protein into your system is absolutely critical for muscle growth and maintenance, and the only way to do it is with a meal every three hours.
5. Frequent meals are ANTI-CATABOLIC: they help promote muscle growth by preventing muscle breakdown (you stay in positive nitrogen balance)
Muscle growth isn't just a result of building up the muscle. It's also a matter of preventing it from being broken down. When you skip meals, your body's need for amino acids doesn't stop. When you cut off the continual inflow of amino acids from protein foods, your body simply goes to a different source - your own muscle. Intentionally starving yourself to lose weight, or even innocently missing a single meal puts you in a catabolic state - you literally eat your own muscle tissue - the muscle you worked so hard in the gym to develop.
Your body doesn't have the ability to store proteins. Amino acids only remain in your bloodstream for about three hours after each meal. After that, you go into a state called negative nitrogen balance, a condition where you are burning up your own muscle protein. That's why it's crucial to eat a meal with protein every three hours. Eating massive amounts of protein in two or three large meals doesn't help - it must be spread out.
6. Frequent eating promotes better utilization of nutrients
Protein and carbohydrates aren't the only nutrients you'll get better use of from frequent eating. Eating at regular intervals allows more efficient utilization of vitamins, minerals and virtually every other micronutrient and macronutrient.
7. Eating smaller meals more frequently reduces fat storage through portion control
Eating small, frequent meals helps prevent you from over-consuming calories through simple portion control. Excess calories at one meal will always be converted into body fat. When you consume a meal, the food is digested and directed into any cells requiring immediate energy. Once the cells have received all the energy they need, the body can store the excess fuel in the form of glycogen in the muscles and liver. However, there's only so much glycogen your body can store. Any excess calories beyond this limit will be stored as body fat.
The perfect meal size
Ok, so now you know all the reasons why you must never skip meals and why you must eat small meals every three hours. The next question is, "What is the definition of a small meal?" Well, if you've done your calorie calculations already then this is very easy to figure out.
On average, the optimal intake to lose fat is about 2400-2500 calories per day for men and 1500-1600 for women. Naturally, if you are a serious athlete or bodybuilder with high activity levels, these calorie levels will be higher. To get your ideal calorie intake per meal is easy; simply divide your total daily calories by the number of meals you are aiming for (preferably five or six).
Average optimal caloric intake for fat loss = 2400
Desired number of meals = 5 or 6
Target calorie intake per meal = 400 to 480 calories per meal
Average optimal caloric intake for fat loss = 1500 Desired number of meals = 5
Target calorie intake per meal = 300 calories per meal
As you can see, these are fairly small meals. Now let's take a look at the calorie contents of some sample meals you might encounter while eating out:
Big Mac and large fries = 980 calories
Denny's Grand Slam breakfast = 1100 calories
Porterhouse steak, steak-house size portion (one pound) = 1150 calories Spaghetti with tomato sauce, restaurant serving (3 1/2 cups) = 850 calories Medium movie theater popcorn with butter = 1100 calories
Chinese/Kung Pao chicken with rice (1 order) = 1620 calories
The problem is obvious: Most people are over-eating, big-time! (And these examples aren't even including drinks or desserts.) An average restaurant meal, whether we're talking steak, breakfast, Italian, Chinese, or fast food, can easily top 1000 calories.
An average sized meal for fat loss is 300 calories for women and 400 calories for men, based on five or six meals per day, respectively. Even if you have a large frame and you're highly active, the upper end of the calorie range for fat loss is usually around 400 for women and 550 for men. Your objective is to never, ever eat huge meals - not even on a "cheat day." It's permissible to enjoy cheat foods occasionally in small amounts, but NEVER binge or stuff yourself - EVER! Always spread out those calories!
Taper your calories: Make breakfast your largest meal and dinner your smallest
Although these "average" calorie amounts were divided evenly in each meal, there's one small adjustment that can increase your fat loss even further; it's called "calorie tapering." There's an old saying, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like prince and dinner like a pauper." This arrangement of meals from largest to smallest is wise advice. The typical eating pattern of the average American is; no breakfast or skimpy breakfast like a bagel or doughnut, then a big lunch, usually fast food or cafeteria food, concluding with a huge dinner and a late night snack.
Start eating early in the day and eat your last meal at least two or three hours before bedtime
Ideally, you should begin eating early (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. or earlier), so you can fit in five to six meals and your last meal falls two to three hours prior to going to sleep. If you sleep in and miss your first meal or wait until late morning or early afternoon to start eating, you're leaving a gaping hole between meals. This gap can be 16-20 hours long if you haven't eaten since six or seven the night before. This sends you into starvation mode and causes an incredibly catabolic (muscle-wasting) state.
Yes, this means you must become a morning person if you're not one already. Brian Tracy, one of the world's leading experts on personal achievement said, "In my studies of successful people over the years, I have never found any highly successful person who was a late riser." Get up early and start eating early! If you work third shift, then you should simply eat meal one whenever you wake up and arrange your meals so you eat every three waking hours, even if that's during the wee hours of the morning.
Although many scientists reject the "eat less at night" theory, there are some very logical and scientific reasons why it works:
1. You are less active at night and are burning fewer calories
2. Your metabolism is slowest while you are sleeping
3. You will release more insulin at night compared to in the morning
4. Your glycogen stores are fuller after a day of eating so you are more likely to store excess carbohydrate as fat instead of storing it as muscle glycogen
Maintain a consistent eating pattern seven days a week
Consistency is the hallmark of all people who successfully lose body fat and keep it off. You must work hard to maintain your discipline and keep a regular eating schedule seven days a week. Because most people work on a regular schedule Monday through Friday.
How snacking fits into the eating plan
Most people's snacks of choice are refined carbohydrates and fatty foods such as crackers, cookies, candy, muffins, potato chips and pretzels. This is largely because "carbo snacks" are so readily available (it's not like you can grab a chicken breast or Salmon steak at the checkout counter of a convenience store!) In the next section, you'll be learning why eating "carb snacks" by themselves is not a good idea.
Transition gradually into five or six meals a day if you find frequent eating difficult
If you find it too difficult to eat five or six meals per day right from the start, you may need to use a transitional period. If you've only been eating two or three times a day, there's a simple way to get started on the habit of frequent eating: Continue to eat your three full meals per day, properly combined with a lean protein and a complex carbohydrate. Then simply add two or three snacks; one in between each full meal.
Practical considerations for high meal frequency
At this point, you might be in complete agreement that the benefits of having a lean protein and complex carbohydrate meal every three hours are fantastic. However, there's still a little problem: You have a life! How are you supposed to squeeze five or six meals into your busy schedule?
First of all, let me say there's no easy way around it. Eating frequently is hard work and requires discipline. However, advanced planning, preparation and scheduling are the keys to making it as easy as possible. Supplements can also help, but you don't want to go overboard in the meal replacement department. If you really want a fast metabolism, avoid drinking a large portion of your calories. Liquid calories tend to be more concentrated and have virtually no thermic effect compared to solid food.
Here are five tips to make frequent eating as easy as possible:
1. Think of where you'll be tomorrow and plan your entire day in advance.
2. Schedule a time for each meal and stick to it
3. Cook your food the night before. for an entire day of meals.
4. Cook in bulk
5. Plan ahead when traveling
A mental training technique that guarantees you'll stick to your eating schedule and never want to miss a meal
What you're going to do is establish what I call an "eating trigger." The "trigger" is the moment you pass your designated meal time or a maximum of four hours since your last meal. Once this point passes, you're in the danger zone for losing muscle and setting off the starvation alarm. For example, if you've committed to 10:00 a.m. as the time for your second meal, then the minute the clock strikes 10:01 a.m. and you know you're late, this will be your cue or "trigger." At this point, you're going to have a short conversation with yourself. It will go something like this:
"I'm now beginning to go into starvation mode. Every minute that passes from this moment on is making my metabolism slower and slower. If I don't get my meal immediately, I'm going to set myself up to get fatter and fatter. I have to eat my lean proteins and complex carbs now."
"If I don't eat now, I am eating my own muscle for breakfast. I am cannibalizing all the lean tissue I worked so hard to build in the gym. If I don't eat now, all that hard work and sweat in the gym was totally wasted. If I miss this meal and I don't eat now, I did my last workout for nothing! There's no way I'm missing this meal. I must get my lean proteins and complex carbs now!"
The role of meal replacements and protein shakes in high meal frequency
A frequent challenge many people face is that work, school or family commitments often make it difficult to eat five or six meals per day. In some business or personal situations, it's not appropriate to open up your plastic container and have a 20minute break for yams, green beans and Salmon just because it's time for meal four.
Whole foods should always be your number one choice when time permits, but in a time crunch, a meal replacement product (MRP) can be the difference between getting your meal and going into the danger zone.
MRP's usually come packaged as powders in tubs, canisters or individual packets. Examples include "MET-RX," "Lean Body," "RX-Fuel," and "Myoplex." I don't recommend bars. Protein bars and meal replacement bars are at best a nutritional compromise and at worst they are nothing more than candy in disguise. Read labels carefully before eating any bar - you're likely to find refined sugars, saturated fats and unhealthy trans-fatty acids in the ingredients.
Your product of choice should be a powder that you mix in water or another liquid (skim milk, juice, etc.) It's never a good idea to replace more than one third of your total calories with shakes, and only do so if it absolutely necessary (that's a maximum of two out of six meals). Remember, these products are food supplements, not a substitute for good eating habits. The only benefit of powdered drink mixes is convenience. Supplements will give you the calories and nutrients you need, but they won't provide the metabolic boost that solid food does. Whole food is what really stimulates the metabolism.
When all else fails, AL WAYS GET YOUR PROTEIN!
Sometimes unexpected interruptions throw a wrench in the most well-laid plans and you find yourself "stranded" somewhere without food or unable to eat. Perhaps you've been in meetings all day or seeing one customer after another back to back. Or maybe you simply didn't prepare enough food in advance and your rations have run out. What do you do?
Although you're going to learn in the next chapter that proteins and complex carbohydrates are the optimal fat burning meal combination, when all else fails, always eat your protein, if possible. The protein by itself (without the carbohydrates) will leave you a little short on calories, but at least you'll be preventing the muscle breakdown and metabolic slowdown that would have occurred if you didn't eat anything at all.
This is why you should always keep a container of protein powder or a meal replacement packet handy in case of "emergency." Keep one in your desk, in your car and in your backpack, briefcase or handbag. Get a small shaker bottle and fill it with two or three scoops of protein powder. Bring along a bottle of water and then you're ready to mix yourself a protein shake any time, any place. Two minutes and you're done.
Unless you're a beginner, the information you've learned in this chapter was probably nothing new because the topic of frequent eating has been discussed to death for years. This is common knowledge. However, frequent eating is talked about more often than it's practiced because it's hard to do!
I admit that eating six meals a day isn't easy. Frankly, eating six meals a day is a royal pain in the ass. But it also depeds on how serious you are about losing the fat and keeping your muscle. People tend to do what is most important to them. For most its saying they have done something or they are doing something to look cool in the eyes of others. You shouldnt worry about anyone else and want to better yourself not just flap your jaws and look cool.
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