Meal Frequency: Is Eating Six Times a Day Necessary?

Eating Six Times a Day

Is All That Eating Necessary ... Really?

One question that is popping up all over the bodybuilding space is the question is meal frequency.  Not just meal timing, just the basic question of how many times do I need to eat per day?

Just the other day I received this note …. (for you who can’t read, I’m not saying this, I said I received this)

No study has ever confirmed that it is more efficient to eat 6 small meals as opposed to 3 big meals (or even 2!) in terms of body composition results.

ZERO!

Are those six meals a day I’ve heard about really necessary?  People have been told for some time that in order to build muscle and gain weight, they need to be eating.   In the past, you’ve probably heard that eating more frequent meals is has a thermodynamic effect and you will burn more fat by eating more often. ( A study done in 2010 disproves this assumption)

But is this dogma true?  First, let’s examine the short list of frequent meals.  This list is by no means definitive.

Benefits of More Meals Per Day:

  • appetite control
  • frequent eating and tight control of within day energy balance help to control insulin
  • personal observation (not scientific but not irrelevant either)
  • energy balance
  • higher meal frequency is important from a cortisol control standpoint

Drawbacks to More Meals Per Day:

  • too much eating
  • burden to carry so much food around
  • preparation for the amount of food
  • not necessary to achieve the proper amount of total daily calories
  • not necessary for the current level of athletic training

” If eating 5-6 times a day helps control your appetite and easily hit your calorie goals, if it gives you more energy, keeps you satisfied all day long and you enjoy it – then that’s the way to go. If eating bodybuilder-style with 5 or 6 whole food meals a day is a burden to you with the food prep and time spent eating, or it makes it harder to stick with your plan, not easier, then you’re better off with 3 or 4 meals a day or 3 meals with snacks.”Tom Venuto, author of Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle

To take Tom Venuto’s statement a bit further here’s what Dr. Dan Benardot, PhD., RD, LD, FACSM, and author of Advanced Sports Nutrition says on the meal frequency subject…

“There is a limit to how much energy (i.e., calories) the body can handle properly at one time. By satisfying our total energy requirements through infrequent eating opportunities, this limit is passed and problems occur. In addition, infrequent eating does nothing to address normal blood sugar fluctuation. Blood sugar peaks about one hour after eating, and is back to pre-meal levels about two hours after that. That means that we can expect a normal range of blood sugar for about three hours. Unless something is consumed to satisfy the need for blood sugar every three hours, gluconeogenesis can result with a loss of lean mass.”

“A dedicated bodybuilder should eat at least five times a day and space those meals no further than three hours apart.  I have found eating smaller, more frequent meals, or in other words “grazing” throughout the day, is the most efficient way for my body to process food.”SkipLaCour; six-time national drug-free champion bodybuilder; author of Bodybuilding Nutrition

Will Brink, author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and author of Bodybuilding Revealed & Fat Loss Revealed weights in with an excellent video on the subject.

Do You Need to Eat Six Times a Day or More?

At this point, I hope you are not confused!  What I’ve found is that first and foremost you must get your required number of calories per day to reach your goals.  After that, meal timing becomes important given your activities in the next hours.  You do not need to eat more frequent meals IF your blood sugar is in control and your appetite is fine.

Signs of Hunger:

  • hunger pangs
  • loss of focus and inability to concentrate

If you are NOT engaging in high intensity training or activities that require some type of re-fueling OR if you are taking a training break OR sedentary, then 3 meals a day would probably be just fine.

However, if you want to optimize performance, be your best at your intense workouts, perform longer duration activities, then don’t get caught in the trap of controversy that says multiple meals (maybe 5 maybe more) is not necessary.  Or that there’s no evidence via studies to show that multiple meals has an affect on body composition.

In fact it IS and there are SEVERAL studies (listed below) that prove this.

Going by personal experience, as should you in this case, if you find yourself getting light-headed and you feel like you want to grab the closest candy bar, you are probably experiencing some significant swings in insulin.  Having more frequent meals helps control this issue and it’s why I like having 5-6 meals per day.  I’m able to eat at a 15% calorie deficit when cutting without going crazy with hunger or insulin making me make horrible choices out of desperation.

However, if you eat 3 times a day maybe a snack or two and get your calories in per day, have energy for your activity and you experience NONE of the hunger swings or cravings, you simply don’t need more meals per day.

I am a fan of frequent eating but is it absolutely 100% necessary?

The answer is you should customize your meal frequency!

Meal Frequency can be affected by:

  • environmental
  • your history
  • accessibility
  • culture
  • time
  • finances
So YOUR meal frequency really needs to be customized to your situation based on the benefits and drawbacks listed above in addition to your personal situation.

In the meantime, based on the research and several experts in the field of nutrition and bodybuilding listed here on subject, I’ll continue to eat my six bodybuilding style meals per day.

I’d love to know what you think on this subject.

Marc David – CPT
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
Author of NoBull Bodybuilding

Additional Resources and Studies on Meal Frequency

  • Meal Frequency: International Society of Sports Nutrition
  • Meal Frequency and Energy Balance by Lyle McDonald
  • Researchers Look at How Frequency of Meals May Affect Health
  • Beneficial metabolic effects of regular meal frequency on dietary thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity
  • Meal frequency and energy balance
  • Meal Frequency and Weight Loss by Dr. Christopher Mohr
  • Optimal Protein Intake And Meal Frequency To Support Maximal Protein Synthesis and Muscle Mass by Dr. Layne Norton
  • Effects of meal frequency on body composition during weight control in boxers

More Studies:

  • Nibbling versus gorging: metabolic advantages of increased meal frequency
  • The relationship between frequency of eating and adiposity in adult men and women in the Tecumseh Community Health Study
  • Effect of meal frequency and timing on physical performance

Holy Grail Body Transformation Review

Holy Grail Body Transformation by Tom Venuto as Reviewed by Marc David

The Holy Grail Body Transformation

When I first grabbed my copy of The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program by Tom Venuto, I DID expect the best.  I have known Tom since I started by online fitness business several years ago.  With his original Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, my nutrition knowledge was already top-notch.  The real reason I wanted to test out this body transformation program was simple.

I’m tired of the typical bulk and cut cycles that are preached on the Internet.  I’m tired of gaining fat in the off-season and having to work hard to burn it off and just hold pace during the rest of the year.  I also am a glutton for new challenges as I get bored easily. The ideas proposed by the Holy Grail Body Transformation Plan intrigued me on many levels.

Here’s your chance to read this Holy Grail Body Transformation Review and figure out if Tom Venuto’s Holy Grail Body Transformation System is something for you.

Holy Grail Body Transformation:  What You Can Expect

Part one starts out with the theory and science covering the Holy Grail Body Transformation program concepts.  While many people may want to breeze over this section, I guarantee you it is not overly scientific or boring.  You need to understand the physiological process of  a body transformation and how you gain muscle and burn fat.  The whole nutritional program is based upon your ability to manipulate your nutrition to achieve the results you desire.

“Should you decide to pursue the Holy Grail, you are about to embark on a challenging journey. ~ Tom Venuto

Part two gives you the Holy Grail Body Transformation nutritional techniques to make this into reality.  Nutrient timing and nutritional periodization are discussed.  Your choices for the cyclical nutrition plan is the absolute core of the Holy Grail Body Transformation Program.  If you don’t get this right, it’s the difference between making a little progress and significant.  Sounds complicated but it is not.

Part three covers the Holy Grail Body Transformation weight training aspect.  There’s a program called “The New Bodybuilding” or T.N.B. workout.  In a nutshell, it’s an upper and lower body routine, twice a week, with different rep ranges, sets and rest periods.  You will be focusing on strength training and muscle hypertrophy, twice a week.  I found this to be very unique for my style of training.  Being a typical bodybuilder, I focused on split routines and a single goal.  While I’ve mixed and matched rest periods, sets and weights, this upper and lower body concept was a breath of fresh air.  Granted, it’s not a new concept by any means and for many people, they have done this style but if you have never tried it before, it’s interesting.

  • Upper and Lower body workouts; twice a week
  • Focused strength and muscle growth priorities

While the Holy Grail workout is great, it’s limited.  You will find that after 3 cycles of this program, roughly 12 weeks, you want to change it up.  Maybe do something entirely different.  The exercises listed are top-notch but for those who workout at home or the gym does not have the correct setup, you will be forced to mix and match your own program.  That is not a problem for most but could be a limiting factor.

You can use the nutritional outline in this Holy Grail Body Transformation Guide with any workout program.  While it appears to be optimized for the T.N.B. workout, there is no barriers to using this concept with any other weight training program.  Which is the ultimate in mix and match in my opinion.

The Holy Grail Body Transformation report would benefit from a plug and go type exercise chart showing sample exercises, reps, sets and rest periods.  For example, list several exercises for each body part and the user can pick and choose what to do.  This still allows the concept of the T.N.B. program to be completed but it would give much needed options for those who may not be able to do or have access to that piece of equipment.  It’s the only flaw I see in the Holy Grail Body Transformation workout section.

Part four talks about Holy Grail Body Transformation lifestyle factors that will and can effect your progress.

  • Sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Stress

Part five is a question and answer section specific to the Holy Grail Body Transformation report.  After the first version of the Holy Grail Body Transformation manual which was done and completed during a Burn the Fat Inner Circle challenge, Tom Venuto took the hundreds of e-mails and put them into a Q&A format.  The latest version really drills down into things that are covered but maybe overlooked the first go around.  This turns out to be an immensely helpful chapter of the Holy Grail Body Transformation e-book.

In the Holy Grail Body Transformation appendix sections, you will find things like:

  • Sample Holy Grail Body Transformation meal plans
  • Calorie calculators
  • Burn the Fat 2.0 food database
  • The T.N.B. workout program to be used with the Holy Grail Body Transformation

Please understand that if you aren’t versed in nutrition or just a beginner, this program may be a little too complex.  The Holy Grail Body Transformation does have sample meal plans but you don’t find an in depth coverage of nutrition for a lifestyle and the workouts assume you can handle yourself in the gym as far as knowing when and how to push yourself past limitations.  A person without 6 months of solid weight lifting experience would be best to stick with a more generalized program and not worry about body composition changes as described in the Holy Grail Body Transformation that are left to a more advanced athlete.  That being said, if you are dedicated and one of the exceptions to the rule, as a beginner you could make some significant progress on such a plan.

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Bottom Line

In summary, the Holy Grail Body Transformation program is one of the most fun and nutritionally challenging programs I’ve tried in a decade.  I’ve seen my own body fat go from the lower end of average (14%) for a bodybuilder to a lean, 7.47% with a small amount of muscle gain, significant fat loss and gains in overall strength.  The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program bills itself as a body composition changer and if followed to the letter, it will do just that without making you feel starving for food or in such a low carbohydrate deficit you are walking around like a zombie with a constant low sugar, low carb headache.

Over the course of 8 weeks using the Holy Grail Body Transformation, I personally have received many questions about this program myself.  So I’ve developed my own question and answer section that pertains to the Holy Grail Body Transformation program.

Holy Grail Body Transformation:  Question and Answer

QUESTION:

What kind of diet do you go on, in terms of calories, protein, fat, and carb ratios when doing the Holy Grail Body Transformation program?

ANSWER:

Your calorie calculation requires you to figure out how many calories a day you will need for weight gain, maintenance and weight loss.  You will use either the Harris-Benedict Formula or the Katch-Mcardle Formula.  Nothing out of the ordinary here.  The reason you will want to know all three is that depending on the cylindrical diet plan you choose, you will have different calorie targets.

This Holy Grail Body Transformation plan revolves around the concept of Zig-Zag nutrition.  That’s where you have a few days below maintenance, then you follow it up with a maintenance or above maintenance calorie day.  You might choose the plan called the 3:1 Cycle.

That’s 3 days of 15%-20% below maintenance and 1 day in a surplus or 15% above.  Or you might choose a 3 day of surplus and 3 days of a calorie deficit.  There’s a few options depending on what your primary goal is for your macrocycle.  Meaning…

Are you trying to primary build muscle and burn some fat, or burn fat as a priority but keep muscle or maybe.. do the unthinkable and get leaner while gaining muscle which is the crux of the Holy Grail Body Transformation.  The nutrition portion of the Holy Grail Body Transformation plan will guide you through all 3 options very nicely.

Proteins, Fats and Carbs will be in the standard.. 45%, 35%, 20% .  Focus for the Holy Grail Body Transformation is on higher protein for muscle retention and satiety.  The lower carbs is very comfortable with emphasis on carb tappering and burning fat without sending you into low or zero carb mode where you feel like a zombie.  The fats are there to keep your intake in-line with recommendations.

Where it gets REAL INTERESTING specific to the Holy Grail Body Transformation system is the carbohydrate tappering plans (carbs specifically around workouts) and post-workout nutrition that makes the Holy Grail Body Transformation program stand out a bit from others.  Rather than just having a standard set meal plan, the focus is on lowered carbs overall (200g per day) with a focus on most of those carbs coming into play before and after the workout.  This allows you to have plenty of energy for that specific time when you need  it most.  Most plans don’t take this into account.  It makes it a bit more specific to your goals.

Being on a continued lower calorie plan is a good way to lose muscle.  Being in a surplus too long and you gain fat.  This Holy Grail Body Transformation 3:1 style along with the others is just easy enough to follow without making every single day a “new” meal plan and overly complicated.

Nutrition in the Holy Grail Body Transformation Program is a top priority.  Get this right and you are almost guaranteed some significant results.

QUESTION:

What does the T.N.B. workout consist of?  Heavyweights 8-10 reps, light weight 12-15 reps?

ANSWER:

Called the T.N.B. (the new bodybuilding) workout is an upper body, lower body workout, done twice a week and is included in the Holy Grail Body Transformation program.  The focus is on strength and muscle growth and that is accomplished by variable sets, rep ranges and rest periods.  Loading periods are cycled so that each week, you aim to be personal bests.  Your ranges for strength will be in the 5-6 rep range and muscle growth in the typical 8-12 range.  Strength phases will use a 5×5 method which is quite good for raw strength gains. Lower volume will be used for higher rep ranges.  While you can use any program with the Holy Grail Body Transformation system, I’d recommend at least trying the included T.N.B. workouts to the letter before making any switches or determinations.

Week 1: Introductory loading

Week 2:  Base loading

Week 3: Overloading

Week 4: Shock loading

Week 5: Begin a new cycle of the Holy Grail Body Transformation

After 3 cycles of this Holy Grail Body Transformation, you’ll need to switch up the exercises.  It’s a very detailed program that covers what most bodybuilders want. Strength with significant muscle growth.  And while it may not be new to some (upper and lower body routines) it creates a nice foundation in which you can build upon to further create your own workouts.  The only thing I’d wish for is some easier method to create these sticking to the principles outlined. It’s far too easy to start adding new exercises to the original Holy Grail Body Transformation program and you’ll end up in the gym for 2 hours.

In the current form, you can do this Holy Grail Body Transformation routine in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

After the third (3rd) round of the Holy Grail Body Transformation workout, Tom recommends switching to a new program or continue to use the weekly workout schedule, set/rep parameters while changing some or all of the exercises.

QUESTION:

I work out at 3:45am everyday Monday thru Friday and it drives me insane when everyone’s diet never takes into account for people like me that workout first thing when they get up because tons of bodybuilders and trainers do that.  All the diets start out about eating breakfast, then a snack, etc then talk about working out at night. Some of us get up early and workout.

ANSWER:

Even if you do your weight workouts when you get up.. it’s IMPERATIVE to eat.  While cardio can be done on an empty stomach (but there’s really no added fat burning benefit), weight training should not.  You need fuel for those workouts.  If you get up early, you should have some type of high protein, high carbohydrate breakfast and give yourself 30 minutes to digest the food.  You may need more time, maybe less.  Personally, I can eat a full meal and be ready to go in about 30 minutes.  But you need to be fueled for those workouts.

Many bodybuilders do workout early.  But if  you want to build muscle, you’ve got to fuel yourself.  Even the individuals I know who hit the gym at 5:00am still make time for a quick breakfast at 4:30am.  This breakfast can be as simple as raw uncooked oats, protein powder and an orange.  Plenty of carbs and protein for a weight training workout.

There are less benefits to weight training without adequate nutrition.  After being asleep and potentially catabolic with lower nitrogen levels, the last thing you want to do is induce more stress via weight training without proper pre-workout nutritional support.  Take the time for a short, quick breakfast to get some fuel into your system so you can attack the weights.  After that, support yourself with proper post-workout nutrition.

QUESTION:

Can you give like maybe a 2 day complete sample diet of what you eat on the Holy Grail Body Transformation quest to give some new ideas of what to eat.   Right now I’m stuck on protein drinks, grilled chicken breast, green beans, and egg whites for pretty much my entire day.

ANSWER:

Oddly enough, the meal plans that come with the program are nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, they actually matched my target calorie goals for both a deficit and surplus.  While it’s hard to believe, I have stuck with the defaults for two reasons:

  1. It makes life simple
  2. It makes life really simple

All joking aside, the one thing that had me pulling my hair out was the constant switching of high and low calorie days too often or different meals for every day.  While the variety was welcomed, it made it frustrating to grocery shop quickly and it made bulk cooking and planning an event not worth pursuing anymore after a couple of weeks.  This Holy Grail Body Transformation plan is not much more than eggs, chicken, fish, occasional beef, and vegetables.  It makes shopping a breeze.  It makes eating dull.

Now there’s options as the Holy Grail Body Transformation program comes with the standard Burn the Fat 2.0 food database.  Meaning, you have a list of foods in which you can substitute for any of the items.  Tired of Salmon?  Switch it for Tilapia.  Tired of turkey?  Switch it for Venison.

Bottom line, the Holy Grail Body Transformation program comes with several sample meal plans for men and women, based upon some basic calorie goals.  There is a nice one that shows you the carb tappering method of nutrition that is discussed in detail.  Meaning, a fair amount of carbs before and after your training.  But not too much before and after. Thus, you can keep a reasonably low carb plan but have plenty of energy specific for the workouts.  This is something missing in most meal plans today.  They hit macro-nutrient ratios and calories with a wide variety of foods but they don’t necessarily target those calories specific to a workout.  Just seeing the concept is enough for you to adjust any of the sample plans to whatever you might need.

Got a question about the Holy Grail Body Transformation program general or specific? Feel free to ask.  Tried this program?  Let others know your experience in the comment section if you have used the Holy Grail Body Transformation program by Tom Venuto.

Update:  I’ve gone back to using the nutrition concepts outlined in the Holy Grail Body Transformation system but switched my weight workouts to 2 days a week full body heavy lifts and 2 day a week using TRX.  I’m pleased the results.

- marc david

P.S. - Not sure?  Here’s your chance to get the Holy Grail Body Transformation Free Download PDF reports that cover these details and more.