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Eating to avoid muscle loss and preventing your metabolism from slowing down

Ok, so I haven’t written a post for a while.
There’s been a distinct lack of gimmick-busting, blunt, condescending blather since my absence.

Gym douche-bags globally, have had the chance to ‘shine’ in my absence whilst others training with shakes-weights have forgotten exactly WHY they’re considered borderline retarded.

Don’t worry – I’m back in full force, ready to unleash a tirade of semi-interesting drivel upon those that give one eighth of a sh*t.

So today’s posty is solely focused on the title (funnily enough) and as to why the entire notion that eating every 2-3 hours to avoid muscle loss and to prevent your metabolism from slowing down is a complete load of bull and every sh*t it’s ever done.

You know the story…

PT’s with their subscription to Men’s Health and other gym junkies committed to Bro-science™ will argue the following points:

1) Straight after training, if you don’t eat something or have a protein shake, your muscles will start eating themselves.

2) If you don’t eat 6-8 meals a day (every 2-3 hours) your metabolism will plummet and you’ll become a huge fatty.

3) If you take 3 magic beans and plant them, you’ll grow a fricken beanstalk which will ascend you to the land of giants.

Eating straight after training to avoid muscle loss

I’m not for a second condoning that you disregard any form of nutrients at the end of a workout.
I’m a huge fan of BCAA’s and their muscle sparing qualities and they SHOULD be ingested straight afterwards (especially if you train in a ‘fasted’ state).

However, your biceps won’t start disintegrating before your very eyes if you don’t eat/drink something immediately post-workout. Our bodies are smarter than that. In fact if you do choose to abstain from eating post-workout, you’ll take full benefit of your own body’s HGH release. An abstract on that can be found here.

Eating 6-8 meals a day (or every 2-3 hours)

In regards to fat-loss, this method can certainly work for a while.
That’s if you can adhere to it for an extended amount of time.
The unfortunate fact is – most people can’t.

I’m specifically referring to those that divide their daily calorie intake into 6-8 portions then eat those calories at each meal.

Tedious, laborious, hard to stick to and yes, I’ve tried it for an extended period of time in the past to my own detriment.
2-3 years to be exact. Like a sheep, I was following ‘the next big thing’ that I’d read in some stupid muscle mag.
The same mags that tell you to eat all the time also have a supplement advertisement on every second page. Coincidence?

Another frustrating thing is, the weight will stop coming off after a while and you’ll hit the all to common and much dreaded ‘fat-loss plateau’.

If you need more evidence to back in up, I posted on it earlier and here’s a direct link to the study on why eating 6-8 small meals a day won’t increase your weight-loss any time soon.

Eating every 2-3 hours to avoid muscle loss and preventing your metabolism from slowing down

What about increasing and maintaining muscle mass?

In regards to muscle gain and retention – this is where I see a lot of confusion. The main reason I see people eat 6-8 meals is that it’s harder to hit your daily caloric target over 2-3 meals. Spread out your calories in to many smaller ones and you’re more likely to hit the target right? This might be true, but it’s also an epic pain in the ass to maintain in the long run.

Would you rather eat 2-3 meals and have a life, or eat 6-8 and constantly be preparing food? I know which I’d prefer.
Yes you can easily gain mass with fewer meals. Do I need to point out Greg Plitt and his ‘one meal a day’ freaky routine again?
Note: One final thing to consider is this. When I was eating 6-8 meals a day, my teeth were copping a hiding. My dentist commented to me that I had the front teeth of a man 15 years older than me due to the excessive stress I was placing them under. Food for thought.

So is the jury is still out on meal frequency?

Back in April, Alan Aragon did a great critique on the ISSN Position Stand on Meal Frequency.
Whilst those involved agree that more research is warranted, it does conclude that “Increased meal frequency does not appear to significantly enhance diet induced thermogenesis, total energy expenditure or resting metabolic rate.”
My take on it – it’s just not worth the worry and stress to be constantly eating all the time.
You won’t get fat and slow down your metabolism, nor will your muscle waste away.

Do what works for you

You might think this is all a load of bullsh*t, and maybe you’re right.
Studies and reports aside, what works for me may not work for you.
All I’m asking is that you open you eyes up to other ways of training and dieting.
I see far too many people hearing something in the gym, taking it as gospel and then being completely blinded by it.

1- Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet. – Br J Nutr. 2010 Apr;103(8):1098-101. Epub 2009 Nov 30.
2 – The Protein-Retaining Effects of Growth Hormone During Fasting Involve Inhibition of Muscle-Protein Breakdown – 10.2337/diabetes.50.1.96 Diabetes January 2001 vol. 50 no. 1 96-104

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Clint,

    Eating is a very small part of your overall metabolism. If you want to increase your metabolism, the best way to do it is to get your muscles moving, not to eat more. You should only eat more if your energy demand from exercise is high enough to warrant it and even then, many frequent meals makes it way too easy to overeat. For normal people, I suggest sticking with 2-3 meals per day and having a life. Less frustrating and better results.


    • Clint Nielsen says:

      Absolutely. Counting calories in a couple of meals would be difficult enough let alone doing it for 6-8.
      (I don’t count calories at all mind you).

  • The only reason I can think of eating 6+ times a day is because I like to eat and hate being hungry otherwise I found it’s a waste of fat adding time.
    In fact I found when I did try the 6 times a day I overate at nearly every meal , once I started it was hard to stop.
    I admit after a hard weights session or intense cardio I want to eat only to give myself some comfort and to relax but I believe don’t eat too many times in the day if fat loss is a goal, if it’s to gain weight …then go for it!

    • Clint Nielsen says:

      I too love my food – i’d just prefer to enjoy the food i eat 2-3 times a day rather than eat tiny little meals that are half as interesting :)

  • Another great article tackling some common fitness misconceptions. I vary how I eat. Some days I prefer a few smaller meals. Some days it’s intermittent fasting. Other days it’s a couple big meals. Ultimately, like you I don’t think meal timing or frequency has a material impact on your metabolism.

  • Niko says:


    Can you show us a sample meal plan day for yourself. I am interested to see what quantity of food you are eating in 2 or 3 sittings. It’s great to see your point of view on the subject and I like th fact that you state that you need to find what works for you. Personally, in my line of work I don’t always have the luxury of a meal break or access to a fridge/microwave ect.. So I find that I need to eat 6 smaller meals a day to cosume the amount of food that I need, Sometimes during my shifts, these meals consist of things that I can take in my work bag like nuts, protein shakes, beef jerky.

    • Clint Nielsen says:

      Let’s use today as an example. It’s quite poor as I haven’t done a food shop this week yet. Grabbing whatever’s in the cupboard :)

      10g BCAA’s 10mins pre training + a serving of creatine and a black coffee no sugar.

      Post workout
      I had another 10grams of BCAA’s.

      I had a final serving of 10grams BCAA’s

      Broke my fast.
      Lunch consisted of Chocolate protein flavoured french toast.
      Ingredients was 3 eggs, 1/2 scoop protein powder, cinnamon and splenda to taste. Once cooked, i then topped it with a small serving of maple syrup.
      This was then followed up by a shake consisting of a small amount of low-fat milk, ice cold water, low-fat cottage cheese, tsp coconut oil, cinnamon, frozen berries, scoop protein powder and stevia to sweeten.
      Some times I add cocoa powder to this to really dial up the chocolate flavour.

      Small cube of 85% chocolate. (lyndtt at the moment) + coffee with splash low fat milk and stevia to sweeten

      I think the mrs is making me a stir fry.
      This will most likely be chicken based with a heap of veggies served over white rice.
      My last meal at around 8.30pm will be some kind of cottage cheese containing protein shake.

      Id normally prefer to eat something a bit more vitamin packed for lunch, but like I said – no shop this week yet!
      Lunches i generally go for a Chicken burgers with extra chicken breast and a side of rice. Large salads with chicken or beef.
      I tend to eat the most for lunch after my fast.

      Also keep in mind that I’m trying to incrementally gain muscle at the moment, and will be modifying my caloric intake slightly over coming weeks to burn fat.

      • Flavoured French Toast sounds wicked, I definitely try that.
        I never liked the taste of Splenda,stevia etc and rather stick to honey or even a bit of sugar.
        So your normal fast is from Dinner previous night until Lunch?
        I’ve just started doing a 24 hr fast per week ( not strict I use a couple of protein shakes in between) and see how that goes.

        • Clint Nielsen says:

          The french toast is god-like thats for sure.
          Sweetener is all personal preference – I have quite a ‘sweet-tooth’ however, so the Stevia for me is a must.
          My normal fast is from the Dinner to Lunch – yes.
          My fiancee is also doing the same fasting and we both seem to be able to handle it quite well.

      • Niko says:

        Thanks for the comprehensive response. How many days in a row will you fast for? Is it everyday or do you pick a number of days a week? I have been doing a bit of reading on intermittent fasting and it’s effects on burning fat. Thinks I might have to give it a go, shock the system so to speak.

  • Nice post.. Like you I was a 6 meal a day man for quite a while, but the impact on having an actual life is huge. Seriously, we can all get in great shape without this tired old approach, and surely the point of getting in shape is to enjoy life more, not to give it up?

  • saretta says:

    I am a natural grazer so 5-6 meals a day is what feels right for me. I can’t go for more than about 3 hours without eating or I start to feel weak and shaky. I also need to have protein each time I eat, other food doesn’t do the trick for me. I guess each of us needs to find their own balance point.

    • Clint Nielsen says:

      I used to be the same way. I found that my body was ‘programmed’ to be expecting meals the more often I fed it.
      One week of eating differently, and i reckon your feelings of weakness will dissipate completely. Might be worth experimenting with.

  • seems we all followed this 6-8 meals a day at one time when we were in the matrix, our little niche has unplugged though and started eating 2-3 meals a day like a normal person should. when you consume something straight after training you fail to take advantage of the increased HGH which actually promotes building muscle.

  • Sara says:

    My trainer told me to start eating 6 times per day as I was only eating 3 times per day. I’m not a big eater. Anyway, I put on 8 kg. I thought maybe my metabolism would adjust eventually but no results. I only ditched the eating plan yesterday and back to how I used to eat. I’ve gone from a size 12 to a size 16. Can anyone give me some good weightloss tips? I’m getting a bit stressed out now as I feel like a fat cow.

    • It all comes down to portion size. If you upped your meals from 3 to 6, and they stayed similar in size — then yes, you’ll put on some weight.
      The hardest thing to stick to with the 6-8 small meals plan, is the smaller sizing of each meal. This is another reason why I’ve long since ditching eating this way myself.
      Have you looked into Intermittent fasting at all? Do a bit of a search on the site or email me if you need further help.

  • Baiyanggs5 says:

    First, thanks for sharing the information. I read lots of articles about eating and diet. All the articles point to the same thing- small meals. 4-6 meals per day is the best. You have to divide your calorie into these meal. It really frustrate me for a long time. It’s different to do that. Six meals per day. That is horrible. People still on the old way. This is the first time I hear about 2-3 meals are also good way to diet or the keep muscle. 3- 4 meals per day is much easy and better for me. People usually talk about 6 meal to maintain your body metabolism is the best way. Again thanks for your new view. This is very useful and helpful.

  • jazz says:

    Great article. I appreciate the examples at the end too. I was just thinking I wanted some examples just before you mentioned them. I definitely need to do better at snacking healthy. Thanks for the info.


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