Let’s talk about how we can improve our results by eating big and less frequently.
“So wait; you’re telling me I can spend less time preparing food, eat bigger meals, and get the same, or even better results than the traditional eat-every-two-hours thing?”
Enter the wonderful concept of intermittent fasting. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, intermittent fasting is a fairly new concept within the health and fitness realm.
While fasting may not be popular among the masses, it’s gained a lot of ground within a select group of fitness folk – and it’s for good reason; it works.
Over four years ago, I found myself preparing for a photo shoot, and becoming completely obsessed with my 6 - 8 meals per day nutritional plan. By the time I was ready for my shoot, I was ready to give up on this whole ‘being ripped’ thing.And about that time, I found Martin Berkhan, who’s largely responsible for bringing the popularity of intermittent fasting to the strength and conditioning world. His solid approach is fairly simple to understand.You merely pick an 8 - hour window to consume all of your daily calories. Once the 8 hours is up, you fast for 16 hours until you approach the 8 - hour window the following day. Easy enough.For the typical trainee who hits the gym in the afternoon (say 4 - 6 p.m.), you will fast intermittently from bedtime up until about 12-2 p.m. the following day. So, if your 8-hour window begins at 2 p.m., you will cease your feeding at 10 p.m.
The goal here is to focus less on eating and planning meals, and more on the things in life that take up bigger chunks of your time. Fitness should complement your life as opposed to ruling it.
This means no breakfast outside of a few cups of coffee and no mid-morning snacks.
I’ll give you a sample of what my diet looks like so you can see how easily I implement a fasting approach to my daily life.
Wake, work and sip on coffee until about noon.
Break my fast with a shake (50g protein, 50g carbs, 10-15g fat from peanut butter),
return to work.
Head to the gym for an hour to train.
5 - 5:30 p.m.
Return home and prepare a large meal
(50-100g protein, 200-300g carbs, 10 - 15g fat)
9 - 10:00 p.m.
Consume my last meal
(either go out for dinner or have some lean meat, veggies, and more starch).
Wake, work and sip on coffee until about noon.
Break my fast with a shake (100g protein from cottage cheese and protein powder, 50g carbs, 10-15g fat from peanut butter), return to work.
Go for a walk in the woods, or down to the lake.
Return home to work some more.
(100g protein – usually a fatty cut of meat with veggies or a protein-heavy dairy selection consisting of yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.)
By making this change, I’ve reduced my needs to prepare multiple meals throughout the day, plus I’m able to enjoy very large, satisfying meals, which highly contributes to dietary adherence – especially when attempting to lose body fat.
For those who are unfamiliar with this approach, I’m sure you may have some questions and concerns, considering fasting is hardly publicized to the masses.
“I’ve always heard that eating more causes one to burn more fat and stoke the metabolic fire – is this not true?”
While this is a commonly held belief, it’s far from the truth. Multiple studies have proven that meal frequency has no bearing on metabolism. One study from the British Journal of Nutrition suggests there is no evidence that meal frequency has any bearing on weight loss when in an energy deficit . Another study from 2009 compares 3 meals per day to 6 meals per day and reveals no difference in weight loss when calories and energy levels remain constant. In the end, as long as protein and calorie requirements are met – the way in which this happens (meal frequency) is hardly relevant.
“Don’t I need to continually feed my body with protein to ensure proper digestion and a steady supply of amino acids to my bloodstream?”
For a good while, this has been a popular belief – the body can only absorb “x” amount of protein in a sitting (typical figures are 30-40g in a sitting). Thus, we arrive at the 6 - 8 meals per day thing to ensure we get enough protein. The good news is our bodies are much more complex and fully able to digest protein in large quantities – ensuring a steady stream of aminos in our blood to take care of the recovery and growth process. This study reveals a standard meal of pizza (600 kcals with ~37g protein) is still not fully absorbed even 5 hours after devouring it. What if you sat down at night and had a few large chicken breasts (~100g protein) in peanut sauce (fat), some potatoes? It only makes sense that this meal will be slowly digesting for hours to come without any fear of being deficient in amino acids.
Need further validation on the rates of protein digestion? Then read Alan Aragon’s article on the subject.
So, there’s no need to fear muscle catabolism here. Go ahead and enjoy a bigger, protein-dense meal the next time you’re out.
Building an amazing physique is tough. It’s not for the average, impassionate bro. It takes time, perseverance and commitment. But then again, anything worth achieving rarely ever comes without a fight.
If anything, I hope you now realize that even with limited time, you can still push towards your full potential by making effective use of your training with simpler, more efficient methods.
If you’re tired or stressed out from all the ideals around frequent eating, I encourage you to investigate and learn about intermittent fasting – then make it work for you and your schedule.
JC Deen is the author of JCDFitness – A No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked, where he whimsically writes about intermittent fasting, strength training and the laid-back fitness lifestyle. Stalk him out on Facebook or pester him on Twitter.
 Wernborn, Mathias, Jesper Augustsson, and Roland Thomeé. "The Influence of Frequency, Intensity, Volume and Mode of Strength Training on Whole Muscle Cross-Sectional Area in Humans." (2007): 31-32. Print.
 Bellisle, France, Regina McDevitt, and Andrew M. Prentice. "Meal Frequency and Energy Balance." British Journal of Nutrition 77.S1 (1997): S57. Print.
 Cameron, JD, MJ Cyr, and E. Coucet. "Increased Meal Frequency Does Not Promote Greater Weight Loss in Subjects Who Were Prescribed an 8-week Equi-energetic Energy-restricted Diet." British Journal of Nutrition (2010). Print.
 Martin, Berkhan. "Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked (Major Update Nov 4th)." Intermittent Fasting Diet for Fat Loss, Muscle Gain and Health. Martin Berkhan, 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 02 Sept. 2011. leangains.com/2010/10/top-ten-fasting-myths-debunked.html