Who said I had to eat 6 meals?

Steve Reeves - Why six meals a day - Fitness Revolution RowlettWhere did 6 meals a day come from?

I mean does anyone really know?

We’ve been told for as long as we can remember that you’re supposed to eat 6 small meals a day, or eat small frequent meals throughout the day, eat every three hours, etc…

BUT the question remains… says who? Who came up with this rule?

Well,  if you were to Google it you would come across a bunch of self-proclaimed gurus or beginner gym rats that state this so matter-of-factly, but honestly I’m a bit skeptical to believe anyone that doesn’t provide some bio, credentials or testimonials that support them being a legit professional.

The majority of the info comes from magazines, such as Muscle and Fiction, or other media sources.

The most popular forms of media that cite or claim references do what is known as data mining; in other words they look to summarize an entire study or article in one or two sentences that support the media’s claim and in doing so they completely misinterpret the results or the purpose of the journal article.

There is a funny thing about media – even if it’s not true, if it’s published enough times it becomes true, no matter how silly the idea is.


Where did this all come from?

Well it’s pretty hard to narrow down specifically the snowball that started the cascade effect but there have been a few theories and this all relates to $$$.

You see, not too long ago the American culture was already in a calorically dense state and the FDA, which is a publically traded company, needed to make more $$$. It’s always about the money people, remember that. So, how is it that they can convince people to buy more of their food when we are already eating 3 meals a day?

To do so they created studies that showed the health benefits of frequent feedings and money saving benefits of larger why six meals a day - Fitness Revolution Rowlettportion sizes. Eventually this all comes down to marketing for profits for short term investments. If the major food companies can show the health benefits of frequent feeds and money saving benefits of bulk purchase, then the consumer (you) would buy more and damn if it didn’t work.

In short, the ‘six meal a day’ fad came from food companies looking to make more money.

It seems that most research that is done on foods is all related to the marketing of a new food product or way of frequent feedings. These studies are given large grants in hope that the results will promote the authenticity of the product’s claims; what you may not know if that if the results are in favor of the product lots of money goes to the research department for further studies.

Hmmm… so if I say your product or system works I get paid? Sounds like a lot like of other endorsement contracts.

Buy a 5lb tub of mayonnaise and you can save $40 a year, eating more often shows to increase metabolism by “X” percent, not eating enough of “X” food has shown to be a cause of heart disease (I love that one). The list can go on.

I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone and I’m NOT categorizing all food companies and research teams as a cohesive profit plan.

The idea has been so skewed that it has made the weight loss system confusing with counter arguments for EVERYTHING, so now everyone is wondering, “What should I eat to lose weight?” Seriously, think about that statement for a minute. “What should I EAT to lose weight?” Really!?

Supplement companies love this way of thinking for the consumer. Look on the back of their protein bottles. You can’t get in your six meals a day? Drink our protein shake between each meal or have our bar between your meals. What was once just an after-workout tradition has now become a meal replacement.

Let’s face it – the supplement industry is a 27 billion dollar a year business, but yet we are the fattest and most disease riddled we have ever been in recorded history.

For such a health conscious industry you would think that we would not have all these health problems we do today… well, it is obvious that something just isn’t right here.

Now before you get all upset and think “this guy is just weird,” I’m not a FDA hater or corporate hippie nut that feels “The Man” (government) is a profit machine out for us, but I just call it like I see it.

When I was doing all my research I was wondering why the studies on fasting were so limited? Obviously, there is no profit for telling someone not to eat, as you can’t package that up.


The good

I will say that this isn’t all that bad; there have been some benefits to the frequent feeding system. Heck, I survived quite well on this for years and have helped many clients achieve countless weight loss goals to this.

The biggest pro this way of eating has is that it makes people have a plan. That alone is HUGE!!! When you fail to plan then you plan to fail, and it is one of the biggest reasons why people see success with weight management or in some cases lack of.

This system has got people thinking about food and keeping it on their minds. When you are consciously aware that you need to eat better your will strive to make better choices throughout the day. Thinking about food slowly teaches the mind to always be aware that there is always a better choice and that is where weight loss starts.

Those that follow this discipline to the letter generally wake up and prepare their food for the rest of the day, and this helps prevent you from going out to grab a burger during your down time. When healthy food is available we need to gravitate towards that but the problem that most American’s run into is that there isn’t a fast food joint that serves “healthy” food.

There are healthier options but that’s the equivalent of drinking diet soda and too many gluten free products – it’s not that great.

So the fact is when you have a plan and prepare your food ahead of time and it’s right there, then you’re more likely to stick to it.

I cannot emphasize enough how important having a plan is with losing body fat, and I do credit this system with teaching me that.


The bad

Overeating is what tends to happen with the frequent feeding protocol and this is a slow gradual process that happens over time. Not everyone has the ability to graze on a small amount of food; some people love to eat large portions.

We end up training our ghrelin, the hunger hormone, to be in a constantly elevated state and thus our bodies are almost confused into THINKING its hungry when really it’s not. There is a big difference in being PHYSICALLY hungry vs. being PSYCHOLOGICALLY hungry. So, what ends up happening is that we are ALWAYS hungry, or at least we think we are, thus we end up eating bigger meals and more frequent feedings.

You are constantly tied to food and the clock and if anyone has really lived this lifestyle they know that statement alone can make for an arduous day. Frankly, I got sick of working my life around my eating schedule.


Who benefits from the frequent feeding system?

There are a few select groups that I really feel the multiple feedings does well with.

The bodybuilder/power-lifter/strongman. These guys are trying to get BIG and they need to be consuming 4000-8000 calories a day on average. Now, getting all those calories in three meals would just be too uncomfortable, so splitting these up as frequently as possible is their best option

Side Note: I personally feel that around the time that all of the health studies came out supporting frequent feedings was around the time that bodybuilding began to gain a foothold in American society. Everyone wanted to look like a bodybuilder thus this sub-culture of fitness helped inspire the health and fitness craze we have today, and part of that crazy is the constant feedings.

Michael Phelps - 10000 calories - Fitness Revolution RowlettThe athlete. These guys are paid to perform and when you workout 4-8 hours a day you need more than the average person in energy requirements. So again, getting in small meals is the best option.

Remember when Michael Phelps was competing in the 2008 Olympics? He was consuming 10,000 calories a day, fine tuning his body for max performance. Now I can put down some food but that much in one sitting would kill me so of course him eating 10 times a day made sense.

The skinny guy (Ectomorph). In the fitness industry we call these guys hard-gainers. They can eat and eat and never seem to gain any weight (yes I hate them too lol), but these guys need more calories than the average person thus frequent feedings is their best case scenario.

The last hard-gainer I worked with needed 6000 calories a day to put on the weight he was wanting. Now this guy could put down some food! Even for him he still needed more than 3 meals a day to get this done.

If you notice, the frequent feeding system tends to be more for those people looking to gain weight… hmmmm.


why six meals a day - Fitness Revolution RowlettThere is no right way to eat

Like I said earlier, I’m not knocking any of this – for some people 6 meals and up a day is perfect, but for others eating less frequently is better.

I’ve seen plenty of people lose weight and get the physique of their dreams by eating small frequent meals. The big degree of truth with a way of eating is that you need to find what works best for YOUR lifestyle.

If you’re trying to gain weight then multiple meals a day makes complete sense, heck, for some people even trying to lose weight it may even be better.

Just make a plan and find what will benefit YOUR body and allow you the get the results you want the easiest. I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to be 6 meals a day, it doesn’t even have to be three, there are more ways of eating that work so just know that there is NOT just one way of eating.





In Health and Awesomeness,




Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, CES, RBT is the owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

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