Meal Timing: What is Optimal?

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There are a lot of strategies out there informing you of the most optimal times to eat your meals in order to see results.

What results?

Any, really.

We have meal plans for bodybuilding, weight loss, powerlifting, etc. There are tons of strategies for tons of different outcomes, and it makes it hard for consumers to know how to proceed.

I’m here to help.

Meal timing (and meal planning, in general) doesn’t have to be confusing. Quite simply, the timing of your meals — as well as the meal plan you put together — should fit into your lifestyle. Not the other way around.

There is no magical split when it comes to eating. Quite often, you’ll see things advertised like “eat 5-6 times a day and lose weight!” And yes, this type of plan can work, but it’s not for any type of secret reason.

The marketing surrounding meal plans like these seem to suggest things like your body will process food optimally, or you won’t gain fat by eating consistently. That type of marketing works, but it’s a bit misleading.

Your body operates based on calories in + energy expended = output. If you’re consuming more calories than energy your body expends, you’ll gain weight. If you’re consuming fewer calories than energy your body expends, you’ll lose weight.

It’s that simple.

Your body doesn’t know the hours of the day, or what a seven-day week is, or anything else. It doesn’t “feel” you eating a certain amount of meals a day, and react accordingly.

I feel like we reference our bodies like they aren’t actually part of each and every one of us — almost like the body is a third party to what’s going on in our daily lives. You are your body. You adjust to everything you put yourself through.

Your body only knows what you do to it, what you put in it, and how to process everything along the way.

So yes, a meal plan based on five meals a day can work for a weight-gain or weight-loss goal. If you’re gaining, those will be bigger meals. If you’re cutting, those meals will be smaller.

In fact, I’m cutting right now, on approximately 2,200 calories a day, and I’m eating five meals a day. They’re a bit smaller, but by eating consistently throughout the day, it’s more sustainable for me.

That’s what makes any meal plan or meal timing successful: sustainability. It has nothing to do with the timing of those meals (which varies daily). The calories I put in and the energy I expend while training work in concert with each other, which results in a daily output.

During this cut, I’ve also had days where I ate one very large meal and virtually nothing else. There have been days where I’ve eaten 2-3 large meals, too. The calories have remained the same, though, and thus my weight has adjusted accordingly.

There is a significant amount of research proving that your meal timing and the disparity of your calories throughout the day has little to no effect on your overall weight trends, so don’t stress on this topic.

There’s no need to feel confused. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Just do your research, set up your meal plan, set up your training program, track your macros on a daily basis, and you’ll eventually see results.

Don’t starve yourself at certain times of day because of something you read, or eat 12 micro-meals a day because you heard your body will process it “in the most optimal way possible.”

There is no magic to meal timing. The only magic is finding the best possible meal timing for yourself.

That’s what leads to results.

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