by Tony Gjokaj February 19, 2021 4 min read

One of the more common questions that gets asked in fitness is if 6 meals a day is "mandatory".

It's not necessarily mandatory, but it is commonly utilized by pro bodybuilders in their contest prep phases.

I have been eating 3-5 meals a day for years, implementing 4 strategies I typically prioritize my nutrition with.

So with that, we are going to dive into 4 Nutrient Timing (Meal Timing) strategies you should utilize in this post.

Let's dive in!

I. Meal Frequency

Meal frequency essentially answers the question: How many times to do you eat per day?

Contrary to popular belief, you might not necessarily need six meals a day to accomplish your fitness goals successfully. In fact, there are various of studies of meal frequency: from one meal a day up to ten or more.

From various studies, we can find that 3-6 meals per day is a pretty solid ballpark for adherence, body recomposition, and performance. In fact, when people tend to shoot for lower or higher meals than this per day, adherence or consistency tends to falter.

I can attest to this, because I’ve done OMAD (one meal a day) diets and even big bodybuilder styled diets (6-7 meals a day).

These were always stressful and miserable because I either had to make a big meal with tons of protein and sit there for over an hour, eating to discomfort… or tiny meals throughout the day.

Ultimately, you need to find the best amount of meals that work for you.

I find that 4-5 meals daily is the easiest way for me to remain consistent.

Here’s what I typically do today:

One (7am): 2 Scoops Protein (or Fast)

Two (10am-2pm): Big Lunch Meal

Three (3-4pm): Snack or Pre-Workout

Four (6-7pm): Post-Workout or Big Dinner

Five (9pm): Protein Shake Before Bed

This has allowed me the most consistency and least amount of stress.

II. Protein Timing

When it comes to protein, protein timing is important with regards to protein synthesis - to an extent.

According to various studies, there’s only so much protein your body can absorb FOR muscle protein synthesis specifically. This is why I’d argue it’s essential to disperse your protein throughout the day. You don't need to divide it up evenly, just make sure that you have your bases covered. You can achieve this in 4-5 meals with protein sources.

Nutrient timing can be important when it comes to pre and post-workout nutrition. Having our higher carb meals before and after our workout help optimize energy levels. This will allow us to perform our best during intense exercise. In addition, several studies have shown protein & carbs post-workout improves muscle protein synthesis significantly more than just protein alone.

III. Carbohydrate Considerations

When you plan out your meals, consider taking into account of how carbohydrates make you feel.

For example, I get sleepier when I eat a large amount of carbs in one sitting. This is why I eat most of my carbohydrates in the evening, and I sleep like a baby for it.

Others may feel more energized, and eat most of their carbohydrates in the morning. If this you, I would prioritize carbs up until your pre-workout meal, and then make your post-workout carbs a little smaller.

IV. Pre And Post-Workout Meals

Once you have your meal frequency down, you can explore even further by prioritizing pre and post-workout meals.

When it comes to building muscle mass, we don’t really need to be concerned as much as for these meals, as we are typically eating many calories throughout the day.

However, when it comes to fat loss dieting, I say that the pre and post-workout meals are the most important of your day. If your goal is to maintain muscle mass and performance in your workouts, I would prioritize these meals for that reason.

Pre-Workout Meals

Various studies have shown that a pre-workout meal that contains carbohydrates and protein could potentially improve performance in your exercises.

Now this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to change anything in your diet if you use portion control methods, but if you follow Flexible Nutrition protocols, you can add more carbohydrates to your pre and post workout meals.

Personally, I prefer to have carbs and protein before my workouts because I feel like my performance is better that way.

I also utilize these meals during my MMA training sessions as well.

Snacks are especially important to me to keep my blood sugar levels up during my workouts.

One other thing you should consider is if you train more than two hours, I would personally recommend having a light snack or simple carb during your workout.

Post-Workout Meals

While a 30 minute anabolic window does not exist, it is important to get a post-workout meal in as soon as you can.

According to various studies, optimizing your post-workout nutrition has many benefits on improvements on recovery and more. Ultimately, a combination of good amounts of protein, simple carbohydrates, and even complex carbohydrates can improve various factors of our health - even improving muscle protein synthesis.

When it comes to dieting, we are typically hungriest after our workouts. This is why my larger meals typically occur post-workout.

Conquering Nutrient Timing

To summarize, this is what we consider when it comes to nutrient timing and meal frequency:

  • Adherence: Do you prefer six small meals or four moderately bigger ones? From an anecdotal standpoint, cooking myself 6 meals a day used to stress me out. 
  • Protein Timing: Protein timing matters in regards to protein synthesis and amino acid utilization.
  • Carbohydrate Considerations:If you find yourself sleepy from large amounts of carbs, eat carbs in the evening. If you find yourself energized from them, don’t eat too many of them in the evening.
  • Pre-Workout & Post-Workout Nutrition: Most of our carbs and protein intake should be optimized here for muscle protein synthesis as well.

Typically 4-6 meals daily would be a great spot to getting proper nutrients in and taking protein timing to account.

If you have any questions, comments, or insights, feel free to email us at support@reforgedperformance.com.

Until next time!

This post is a chapter from our Reforged Diet eBook.

You can purchase the eBook here.

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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