Doesn’t it burn your biscuits when someone says that you absolutely have to do something without taking into consideration anything about the most important factor in the process: you? I know that it really gets under my skin, especially when not much outside of these few things matter in terms of looking good buck nekkid.
1. Eat at a calorie level that is in line with my goals.
2. Get enough protein to prevent significant muscle loss.
3. Train in a way that helps maintain/build muscle mass.
To quote the great American hero Morgan Freeman, aside from this, all I have to do is be black and die, and even those two are debatable!
But this is exactly how many people are being treated. Even in some instances where they’re paying someone a good amount of money to help them get into the best shape of their lives, all they’re getting in return is a bunch of nonsensical statements that are regarded as truth simply because they’ve been repeated often enough. Not only does this do the person they’re trying to help a disservice, but it gives the preacher of said gospel the impression that they know it all and thus no further investigation is needed.
This has to stop.
One of these often recycled “truths” is that of increase meal frequency. More specifically, folks are often told that they need to eat small meals every few hours, usually to the tune of 5-6 meals or more per day, in order to maximize fat loss. This rubs me the wrong way, mainly because I have personal experience with this myth that was downright debilitating.
As I pointed out in this post, back in college I used to be THE MAN at eating frequently throughout the day. If you earned a living by following me around and reporting back every time I missed one of those sacred meals, then you would be homeless because that just wasn’t how I rolled back then. I always sat in the back of the room in classroom so that I could maximize the space I needed for my friends – Mr. Tub of chicken and Mrs. Contain of broccoli.
I was getting leaner, but it came at a cost. If I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about when I had to eat next. If I wasn’t worrying about that, I was busy prepping food for the next day, or figuring out where I could store my food on campus. To put it mildly, I was living to eat and not eating to live. It was putting a cramp on my social life and I eventually hit a point where if this is what I had to do to look good, then it simply wasn’t worth the trouble anymore.
Then I went AWOL. Off the reservation. Off the grid. Rogue.
It was as if damns became the world’s rarest commodities, because I just couldn’t give one anymore. Overnight I stopped obsessing over how many meals I ate and when I ate them. The stress became too much and I had mentally prepared myself to let the pounds start packing themselves back on at the speed of light.
But then something amazing happened: I not only stayed lean, but I got leaner.
Was it divine intervention? Did I accidentally drink some of that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ooze? Or was it the fact that meal frequency wasn’t the determining factor at all? I’m sure it was a little bit of ooze, but mainly a whole lot of the latter.
I don’t want to focus on the science of things today, because while I read and understand it, I want to speak to practicality and application more than anything else, because that’s the world we live in.
1. It fails to take the individual into account
Meal frequency is a completely individual issue, but when generic, blanket statements like eating every 2-3 hours/5-6+ meals a day are given, they take the power out of the individuals hands, and, if you’ve been reading this site at all, you know that homie don’t play that! What may work for a 230lb bodybuilder trying to put on a significant amount of muscle wouldn’t be appropriate for 130lb woman looking to lose bodyfat.
I also find it backwards that the standard advice given to overweight people who have physiological and psychological issues with controlling their food take that the answer to the problem is to not to eat less, but to eat more.
2. It makes failure inevitable
By nature of the fact that it removes the individual from the equation, if success is achieved at all then it is usually only by dogged determination and an unwillingness to give up. None of these are bad qualities, but with the stress and issues that people have to deal on a daily basis, their dietary success shouldn’t and doesn’t have to require so much mental and physical suffering.
It comes as no surprise to me when I hear of people falling short of the “ideal” meal frequency and, because of it, feeling like let down and defeated, which often leads to nonconstructive dietary discretion (I.E. eating a bunch of food they wouldn’t have otherwise eaten). That mindset doesn’t really make sense, but it is a reality for some thing. It’s similar this scenario: if I can’t workout 6 days a week like my personal trainer told me to, I might as well not work out at all.
With the odds stacked against us, failure and disappointment usually aren’t too far behind, but and that’s just not how it should be.
Here is the take away point: Experiment. Find what works for YOU
If you like eating 6 meals a day and it works for you, dont you dare change a thing.
If you like eating one meal a day because it lets you cut loose like a dietary beast and it works for you, don’t you dare change a thing.
But if you’re constantly falling short in your quest to get from where you are to where you want to be because you can’t follow some predetermined route, then abandon the map – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from it.
The diet that you can stick to in the long term is the most effective one; think of it as the bed frame and the mattress of your life. Anything beyond that is simply details; the precious looking pillow covers and 9,000 thread count comforters – nice to have, but not necessary for a good nights sleep.
What’ve been your experiences with meal frequency? How has it shaped your beliefs about eating? I’d love to hear it below in the comment section. Also, if you liked this post please use the buttons below to share it with your friends – I hear this dogma preached far too often these days, often to the detriment of the people they’re trying to help.
Photo Credit: Remy_Free