So often, the focus on nutrition is what to eat, and how much to eat. But another important factor that is often overlooked is the timing of meals. When you are actively involved in fitness, how often you eat is extremely important. Forget the old "three square meals a day" adage. I believe that it is crucial to supply your body with nutrients about every 3 hours, and there are several reasons why.
Whether you are in a "bulking" phase looking to add mass, or a "cutting" phase looking to shed body fat, the 3 hour rule applies across the board! First let us look at why it is important for someone looking to get lean to eat every 3 hours; when you supply your body with a steady stream of nutrients, you keep your "furnace" (metabolism) revved up, which will in turn keep you in a better fat burning mode all day long. Second, when you eat more frequent meals, you avoid having to eat overly large quantities in a single sitting, in order to meet your daily caloric needs. Another benefit of eating smaller meals is that you do not overload your GI system, and allow your body to better absorb more of the nutrients you are providing it. It is important to note that this method of eating begins within an hour of waking up; this is very important to kick start your metabolism for the rest of the day!
Now let us look at why meal cadence is important for the person looking to bulk (add lean muscle). Eating every 3 hours ensures that you minimize your body being in a catabolic (muscle burning) state, which is counterproductive to gaining muscle. The other benefits that apply to the person looking to cut body fat also apply to the person bulking! Better nutrient absorption, less GI system stress, and the allowance of smaller meals since the frequency of eating is increased.
Whether you are looking to lose body fat or add lean muscle, eating every 3 hours or so is universally beneficial. The only real difference between these goals is the amount of food that is eaten at each sitting. While the person looking to lose body fat may have 3 main meals with a couple of snacks in-between, the person looking to gain weight will need to eat full meals at each sitting.
Enjoy the journey and train hard!
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