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Meals and Muscles

Posted Nov 17 2008 9:10pm

From a pure calorie point of view, you need a calorie surplus to build substantial muscle tissue.  I am of the opinion that you shouldn't have to force-feed calories to do this.  I've been looking into the issue of meal frequency, and I've come across some good research on the subject.

This study notes that there is an inverse relationship between meal frequency and body weight.  In other words, those who eat fewer meals weigh more than those who eat more frequent meals.  I dug further and found this has been verified by other research.  Here's a key chart from this study:


In men, those who habitually ate fewer meals actually consumed more toal calories!  If you convert the MJs to calories, those who ate 2 or 3 meals a day consumed about 250 more calories per day than those who ate 6 to 8 times per day.

Therefore, if you're looking to build muscle, and you naturally want to increase your food intake, one way to do this is to eat fewer meals.  Reading the paper, it appears that waiting longer between meals increases hunger more, such that a person tends to "overshoot" and consume more calories.  In fact, the study shows that those who consumed many meals per day were better at matching energy intake with energy expenditure.  This is not a good thing if you are trying to build muscle, since you want to create a calorie surplus.

All this is very surprising and somewhat counter-intuitive.  It's easy to think that eating more often would lead to greater total calories consumed, but instead it's the opposite.

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