Today’s Fitness Fact Or Fiction is a subject I’ve been wanting to discuss for a while now. You know the old theory right? It’s been a long established ‘rule’ that in order to speed up your metabolism and supply a steady stream of nutrients to fuel muscles, you need to eat every two to three hours.
But is this true?
Proponents of this way of eating will tell you that you must supply the body with amino acids in the form of protein every 3 hours – 4 at most – to keep your body in what’s called an anabolic state and avoid a catabolic state (where your body basically feeds upon itself for fuel). This type of eating plan has been pushed for decades now as the best way to lose fat, gain muscle, regulate hunger and keep your body healthy.
Now as you know I started Intermittent Fasting a while back which basically takes this theory and tosses it out the window. I experienced dramatic fat loss and muscle gain and to this day I still use the plan. For those of you who are unfamiliar with intermittent fasting or IF, you basically have a few options, but they all involve a length of time during each day where you don’t eat. For me I use the 16/8 fast, meaning I eat everyday between the hours of 11 and 7 and that’s it! (Except for my Mexican Adventure!) Now on some days I’ll get 2 meals in, some maybe 3 and if I’m lucky I’ll cram a fourth feeding in. As you can see it’s hardly anything like what we’ve been sold on and I usually go about 16 hours each day without food. And guess what? I haven’t lost one little precious pound of muscle.
In addition, every two weeks I fast an entire day – sometimes longer. Two weeks ago I fasted for 36 hours on a Monday before beginning my week of workouts. I think once again we’ve failed to give the human body the respect it deserves for surviving millions of years. I’ve learned to take a hard look at our exercise and nutrition plans and to compare them to what we’d have without civilization. If our exercise programs are meant to mimic natural activity and make us more functionally fit, then why wouldn’t we eat that way as well? I’ll tell you why – because food has become more social then necessary and we now have supermarkets to shop in at any time of the day! The truth is that the human body has learned to adapt in times of famine and stress and also learned to deal with overeating when food was plentiful.
Now before you all go running to write me and tell me that these periods in time are why our bodies developed fat stores, let me stop you right now! THERE WERE NO FAT CAVEMEN. Sure their bodies adapted to store fat for fuel in absence of a steady food supply or when the climate changed, but they weren’t carrying around 50–200 extra pounds of body fat as we see in many American waistlines.
Now believe me I’ve been there! I can remember being neurotic about eating every 2-3 hours. I had a log, wrote everything down, calculated calories and nutrients and even set an alarm to remind me it was time to eat – even if I wasn’t hungry! And why? Because that’s what every muscle magazine said to do. Looking back it just seems silly with no basis in real science.
Throughout the years I’ve met countless bodybuilders and athletes who didn’t follow the accepted eating protocol and yet they performed amazingly with bodies like Greek gods. I always wondered how this could be the case since they were only eating 3 squares per day or following an irregular feeding pattern. The truth is that the body adapts and will use what you give it to improve your health and fitness. I’m not suggesting that the 2-3 hour meal plan is a bad one, since it worked for me and millions of other people. The point is – it’s not the only way to have a healthy eating plan. Whether you eat 3 meals of 500 calories each or 5 meals of 300 calories, I really don’t think it matters all that much. What I do think matters is WHAT you eat, your nutrient profiles and how hard or intense your exercise plan is.
One of the reason we started ATF was to take the guesswork out of getting fit and eating right. At the end of the day if you eat right and exercise appropriately, you’re body will reflect it. It truly is just that simple.
So for me the 2-3 Hour Eating Plan is a Fitness Fiction…
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