When it comes to building muscle, proper nutrition is essential. And while most people focus on what they eat, the frequency of their meals is just as important. In this post, we'll explore the optimal number of meals for building muscle.
The traditional bodybuilding wisdom is that you should eat 5-6 meals per day, spaced out every 2-3 hours. The idea behind this approach is that by eating frequently, you keep your body in an anabolic state, where it's constantly building and repairing muscle tissue.
However, recent research has challenged this notion. Several studies have shown that there's no significant difference in muscle growth between people who eat 3 meals per day versus those who eat 6 meals per day.
So, what's the optimal number of meals for building muscle? The answer is: it depends.
First, it's important to note that everyone's body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. That being said, there are some general guidelines that can help you determine the best approach for you.
1. Protein Per Meal
The most important factor in muscle growth is protein. Specifically, you need to consume enough protein to support muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the process by which your body builds new muscle tissue. Research has shown that consuming 20-40 grams of protein per meal is sufficient to stimulate MPS.
So, if you're aiming for 200 grams of protein per day, it would be optimal for you to space that our across 5 meals. Despite this being optimal practice, research it is also recommended that you stick to the number of meals per day you're most comfortable eating. more on this in section 3 of this blog.
2. Calorie Goals
Another important factor to consider is your overall calorie goals. To build muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus, meaning you're consuming more calories than you're burning. However, you don't want to overdo it, as excess calories can lead to fat gain.
Again, this will vary depending on your body and activity level, but as a general guideline, aim for a calorie surplus of 10-20% above your maintenance level. To get more information on how many calories you need and how much of a surplus you should be in, check out our very own Macro Calculator Tool.
3. Meal Frequency and Personal Preferences
Finally, it's important to consider your personal preferences and lifestyle. Although recent research has suggested the optimal number of meals to eat for MPS is 3-4 with no significant benefit over 4, the best number is the one you can sustain. Some people find it easier to stick to 3 larger meals per day or even fast with 1 meal per day, while others prefer to eat smaller, more frequent meals. It's ultimately up to you to find a meal frequency that works for you and fits into your lifestyle and hat you can consistently sustain.
In conclusion, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the optimal number of meals for building muscle. However, by focusing on grams of protein per goal, calorie goals, and personal preferences, you can find a meal frequency that works for you and supports your muscle-building goals.