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Dieting Tips and Tricks: Vol. 2 Meal Timing

Dieting. Arguably the most dreaded word associated with bodybuilding and fitness. So many people want to lose the pounds but are unwilling to give up the juicy hamburger and fries pick-up after work. Nor the curry from the local Indian takeout that has become a Saturday night staple in our diet. Nor the tub of ice cream you’re probably gorging on as you read this! But don’t fret, for I was in this situation too! The biggest issue I faced when it came to starting my diet last January was misinformation. It’s often all too easy to get caught up with the pseudoscience constantly floating around the gym. Claims such as “Aim for 6-8 meals a day” and “chicken, spinach and rice only man” are all too common. You know they sound way too authoritarian, but why would you ever doubt anything that comes out of a personal trainer’s mouth? Or even the “knowledge” passed down from the biggest guy at the gym, whom you’re sure takes something else along with those “10,000 calories a day”. I for sure am definitely not going to claim that I know everything regarding nutrition, but here’s my take on dieting and its associated myths.

6-8 MEALS A DAY

I, myself, as I’m sure a lot of you guys reading this have all been told at one point that in order to lose weight (and even gain mass) it’s ideal to have small meals 6-8 times a day, every 2-3 hours. As a food lover, sure that is something I would be willing to do, but as a University student with a packed timetable, on top of finding time to workout, running a blog page and recently getting a job, it seems way too much of an inconvenience. And that’s even considering taking time to prepare meals beforehand. So what’s the logic behind this claim?

THE THERMOGENIC EFFECT

If you look online or even go the extra mile and look through published articles, you’ll find many long-winded explanations and definitions, but in short it is the amount of calories “spent” digesting the meals we consume. The basis of having 6-8 meals a day is that having more meals per day means burning more calories actually digesting the food. But the major flaw in this is that the thermogenic effect works as a proportion of what we consume, with it mostly just being around 10% of a person’s total calorie consumption (does vary between carbohydrates, fats and proteins calorie sources). If you’re lost, do not worry, it makes more sense using an example.

Let’s say we compare two wannabe Ronnie Colemans. one who follows the 6 meals a day rule and the other who just eats whenever he wants, often having just 3 meals a day. If we assume they both have the same amount of calories each day, for example around 3000 calories with person A splitting it into 6* 500 meals a day and B splitting it into 3* 1000 meals…

Person A uses up 50 calories a meal (10% of 500), which adds up to 300 meals a day (50*6)

Person B uses up 100 calories a meal (10% of 1000), which adds up to 300 meals a day (100*3)

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

At the end of the day, the amount of calories you have (and if you want to get into the fine detail, the sources of those calories) are what ultimately decide the calories expenditure on its digestion. In terms of meal timing and frequency, pick whatever suits you. For me, I like to stick to having three meals; a shake and a cup of coffee before my workout, a bowl of oatmeal and a banana after a day of lectures and a final HEAVY meal whilst I sit back and kick it with my TV at the end of the day. The great thing about this is you will be able to not compromise much in terms of living your life and carrying out whatever activities you desire whilst still enjoying the same amount of weight lost (for those of you cutting/dieting) as the deluded/misinformed Joe who swears by the “6-8” rule. WIN!

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