Is it better to eat several small meals than a few large meals?

It used to be standard practice for bodybuilders and athletes to eat several small meals, every 2-3 hours throughout the day.  Although many of the reasons for this are being questioned now, I still believe that it is a very good idea and I’ll explain why I think that is, along with the old-school reasoning that is being disputed.


Positive nitrogen balance

Eating small amounts of protein every few hours will keep your body in what’s called a positive nitrogen balance.  This is a very anabolic (muscle-building) state for your body to be in.

Vince Gironda, one of the first proponents of frequent feedings to maintain a positive nitrogen balance for muscle-building would have his trainees take liver tablets every couple of hours between meals.  That was to get your body enough protein, consistently enough to keep it in an anabolic state.  Another trick that Vince used was to have his trainees eat a boiled egg every hour that they are awake, in addition to their regular meals.

These days the importance of frequent feedings and the positive nitrogen balance is being disputed and even Vince Gironda, when he came up with the steak and eggs diet suggested you eat only twice a day, mornings and evenings –what happened to his emphasis on the positive nitrogen balance?


Rate of absorption of protein

Another old-school reason for more frequent, smaller meals is the belief that your body can only assimilate a certain amount of protein, usually 30 grams at a time.

If that were true, multiple meal times would be necessary, because even a small athlete who needs to get 150g of protein a day would have to break his protein intake down into five meals of 30g each.

Once again, one of the first proponents of this concept was Vince Gironda and, once again, you only ate twice a day on his steak and eggs diet.  As a matter of fact, he said his personal regimen of steak and eggs would provide “over 90 grams of high-quality protein per meal”

NOTE — To be fair, the steak and eggs diet is a cutting, or fat-loss diet.  The muscle-building diets that Vince Gironda recommended to his trainees always had them eating smaller meals, multiple times a day.


Why compulsive overeaters should eat multiple small meals

Whether those reasons for eating several small meals are valid or not, I firmly believe that anyone who wants to lose fat and has a history of overeating MUST eat small meals, every few hours!

Nothing against “intermittent fasting”, or fasting most of the day and eating all of your meals in a “window” of a few hours, but its just not for me and I don’t recommend it to people who have a hard time controlling their food intake, either.

My experience has been, if I don’t eat periodically throughout the day, that I get cravings and brutal hunger.  That means when its finally time to eat again, I tend to eat the wrong things (who craves diet food when they’re hungry?) and I also tend to overeat.

If I eat small meals throughout the day, I never get really hungry, nor do I crave “bad” food, so its much easier to stay on my fat-loss diet.


Why hardgainers should eat multiple small meals

Hardgainers don’t eat enough — PERIOD!

I know, you think you do, but, if I were to follow you around for a few days with a clipboard and document everything you eat and drink, you’d be amazed at how little you actually eat.

When asked why they skipped meals or didn’t eat all of their food, hardgainers always say “I’m not that hungry” or “I just can’t eat that much”

Well, if a hardgainer has difficulty eating several small meals, how in the hell can we expect him to eat the same amount of food in 2-3 very large meals?!?!

Let’s take a look at my current diet.  I eat only about 2000 calories and still, two of my meals consist of 200g of meat each, one chicken and one beef.  That’s about half a pound of meat per meal!  Do you expect a hardgainer, who would probably complain about eating half a pound of chicken to be able to eat an entire pound of meat in one sitting?


Screw the science, get the results

At the end of the day, all I care about are the results people get.

That means, whether positive nitrogen balance and rate of absorption are valid scientific points or not, I am still a strong proponent of multiple, small feedings for anyone, especially those who are already having problems with over- or undereating.

That’s it for today, until next time, go out there and be awesome!


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