by Tony Gjokaj December 06, 2020 4 min read

Recently, I had a debate with one of my friends in that eating all of your protein in one sitting is ok, because you're getting all of your protein in.

Now while it potentially is, I'd argue it is inefficient for your goals (if you consistently exercise).

On the other hand, you don't necessarily need six meals a day to "stoke the metabolic fires" or whatever the lingo is today. I used to live like this, and food serving sizes were miserable.

In addition to that, I prefer to eat freshly cooked foods a little more than meal prepped foods over the course of the week... but that's just me.

So how many meals a day should one have? In this article, we are going to explore that.

How Many Meals A Day?

The TLDR version: ultimately it depends.

To an extent, it could be a matter of personal preference. However, we should consider factors like training style, diet goals, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and more.

Muscle Protein Synthesis

While the number of meals can matter due to personal preference, we should always take muscle protein synthesis (MPS) into account as well.

Some may argue that MPS only matters after a workout session, however that is not the full picture. According to one study, protein synthesis rates are increased over 25% in a 24 hour period if you space your meals throughout the day (compared to eating most of it in one meal). 

On the other hand, a larger protein intake post workout does not necessarily equate to better protein synthesis if it's spread out. HOWEVER, a small amount of insulin through forms of carbohydrates post-workout does assist with protein synthesis.

Lastly, recall that insulin does resist protein breakdown, so it might potentially be beneficial to eat protein and carbs post-workout.

Your body does not transform linearly - it is constantly breaking down and rebuilding.

Consider spacing your protein out throughout the day, and consider prioritizing your post-workout meal to be one of your bigger meals.

Training and Training Style

Another thing we should consider for how many meals we should eat throughout the day is our training style.

For example, you might want to eat more meals if you train two times a day. For example, on some days, I might do a weight training session in the morning and a martial arts session in the evening. This means I will consider two "pre-workout" meals. On these days, I sometimes have about 5 or 6 meals total.

Let's explore why pre-workout meals can benefit you.

Pre-Workout Meals

One important factor we should consider is having a pre-workout meal 1-4 hours before exercise.

There's plenty of evidence showing that consuming pre-workout meals that include carbohydrates improve performance in the gym. This is because of the fact that glycogen is your body's preferred energy source when it comes to exercise.

Not only do carbohydrates benefit you, but eating protein in before your workout has its merits as well - especially if you train first thing in the morning according to some studies.

Your Diet Goals

Finally, your diet can shape how many meals a day you should eat.

Depending on whether you're building size or dieting, sometimes it's more beneficial strategizing your meals.

For example, while dieting, people will either spread more meals throughout the day or utilize Intermittent Fasting in order to eat bigger in the evening.

This is all a matter of personal preference.

I prefer to "Intermittent Fast" (skip breakfast) when I am dieting, as I tend to eat huge in the evening.

I don't do this when I'm eating food to gain size due to fullness and discomfort.

As you can see here, a lot of these choices are a combination of the following: science and adherence.

Can you stick to your diet having six meals a day, or does it stress you out?

Can you Intermittent Fast and not have a blowout meal where you binge in the evening?

A lot of it is trial and error, & experience.

Unique "Meal Plan" Examples

Now that we have these to consider, let's dive into some interesting examples of meal plans I have utilized over the years:

  • Greg Plitt's Meal Plan (RIP): 2 GIANT meals, protein shakes throughout the day before those big meals. It works really well for me, but I think it's more effective for me to drink liquid protein in the morning sometimes and eat bigger at lunch and dinner.
  • Intermittent Fasting: skips breakfast, ends with big meals in the evening. Sometimes meals per day is 3-5 meals in that feeding period. I don't like those eating windows, because I'm not trying to fit 190-200g of protein in a few meals.
  • My personal preference: liquid protein powder for breakfast, lunch is a big meal, a small pre-workout snack (protein+fruit), a BIG post-workout meal. I shoot for 4-5 meals a day. I guess i'll call this the Reforged Diet.

There are hundreds of variations in between.

Ultimately, I follow Flexible Dieting, which considers calorie intake and caloric expenditure for performance (whether it is gaining size or fat loss).

Meal'n It Up

And there you have it: the opportunity to choose how many meals a day can potentially be yours to choose.

Obviously it's important to consult a doctor or physician if you deal with any challenges (like diabetes, cardiac problems, or thyroid issues) for the best option for you.

Remember: it's important to find what is best and the most healthiest option for you - however, this does not mean you can't be successful in your fitness journey. You might just need to improvise.

Any questions or comments? Feel free to message us on here, social media, or email me at tony@reforgedperformance.com.

Until next time, Reforged Legion!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He has been in the fitness space for over a decade, previously coaching individuals in body recomposition and strength training. His goal is to connect others with the knowledge they need to reach their greatest potential.



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