6 meals a day vs. 3

Hey guys, just wondering, have bodybuilders always eaten this way? Where did this 6 small meals a day program come from? (did Scott Connolley of Met-Rx invent it? I guess Bill Phillips popularized it?) Now, I know that this type of eating program is encouraged for diabetics to keep their blood sugar up because of the meds. What I’m curious about is the physique aspect…burning fat. Has ANYONE had any luck getting lean and muscular while eating 3 meals a day???

When I first tried to get lean and muscular I was eating 2-4 meals per day. It worked to a point. 6 is definitely better [for me].

i don’t know if he invented it, but i believe it was some guy named Parillo who popularized the concept of smaller, more frequent meals. i could be wrong.

Another advantage of the smaller, more frequent eating patterns is the effect on metabolism. The thermic effect of food property kicks in more often, thus elevating metabolism. When the body is exposed to only 2 or 3 meals a day, spaced out sporadically, there is tendency to go into the starvation mode, which more efficiently stores energy as fat and also slows down metabolism. By eating more frequently, your body expends more calories just to break the nutrients down, you can turn on the energy-burning furnace, so to speak. You could also think of it in terms of total caloric intake spread over 3 or 6 meals: 1000 cals/meal or 500 cals/meal, respectively. The body may not need all those calories in one sitting, and thus will store excess as fat (if all other substrate storage sites are filled). I believe that the nutrients in one meal only circulate for 2-3 hours. So if you aren’t going to use the substrates or there’s no storage sites available, there’s the tendency for the storage of the nutrients as fat.

The eating often has been around for a long time. Arnold used it, etc. etc. If you wait longer than 4 hours you slow down your metabolism. So, you should eat as often as you can. Preferrably every 3 hours, starting from the time you get up. It works. Always had. I am 41 and have old books that show up to 8 meals a day as the general rule for contest prep (getting leaner).

Six meals per day was popularized by the
Weider magazines, and other magazines,
long before Bill Phillips appeared on the

I’d expect some people can get by with three
meals per day and do reasonably well anyhow,
but six or more meals is very noticeably better.

From the mouth, or hand rather, of TC:

After a meal, while lying down in a blissful stupor, Homer Simpson style, your stomach goes to work breaking down your meal into a nutrient laden goo, much of which will go towards either repairing, maintaining, or building muscle. A large influx of amino acids enters your blood stream, riding and bucking the currents like so many capsized white-water canoes. Most of this increase in blood amino acids consists of branched-chain amino acids and not lone amino acids as you might guess. This is 'cause your poor, overworked liver doesn’t contain enough enzymes to process all these branched-chain amino acids. Consequently, the liver relies on skeletal muscle to do most of the job.

Of course, even the muscles eventually reach an overload point, and the rest of the “unclaimed” branched chain amino acids float around, stranded. Luckily, they keep busy by shuttling nitrogen to muscle. Others are “reprocessed” to form non-essential amino acids. And, there’s even evidence that others might keep the numero-uno muscle-building amino acid, glutamine, from leaching out of muscle cells, which in turn might stimulate more muscle protein synthesis. It’s all pretty efficient, and pretty cool.

All of this muscle-cell/branched-chain amino acid intercourse is mediated by the hormone, insulin. (The insulin, of course, was secreted as a result of all the glucose and amino acids you ingested—pretty nifty, huh?).

Unfortunately, this anabolic state is temporary. After about three hours, maybe four, the body enters a post-absorptive state. Insulin levels decline, the influx of amino acids into muscle comes to a screeching halt. Soon after, the body actually slips into a catabolic state, and skeletal muscle, instead of taking in amino acids, starts to spit them out like candy from a Pez dispenser. To make matters worse, a lot of this amino acid is glutamine.

And yes, it’s true that the body recycles a good portion of these amino acids, but very few of them find their way back into muscles without the aid of insulin, and since you haven’t eaten in three or four hours, insulin is taking a cat-nap in your pancreas.

All of this becomes much more complicated when you throw the muscle-tearing effects of a good workout into the picture. Workout “damaged” muscles need even more amino acid influx to help repair and grow them.

6 (or 8 even) is definitely better. Keeping insulin levels stable is the big key for keeping fat down. Fewer big meals cause more insulin spikes and therefore more fat storage. Also, you need to keep your body in a “anabolic state” while body building - More than 3 hours between meals simply won’t cut it.

Cool, thanks for all the input. I was kind of hoping that there were folks out there that were successful with 3 meals a day…eating so often is really a pain in the ass!