Can you build muscle with just 3 meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner ? Although we’ve been taught that it’s not the best choice for a muscle building meal plan, it’s still possible to build muscle by eating only 3 meals a day.
We’ve been taught for decades that eating 5, 6 or even 7 smaller meals is the way to go if you want to build or maintain muscle and keep your metabolism high. A recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found, among other things, that increasing meal frequency does not appear to have a positive effect on body composition, improve energy expenditure or boost your metabolism.
Can you build muscle with only three meals a day ?
It all comes down to a couple of things – what feels better for you and does it fit your schedule ? In order to build or maintain a certain muscle mass you need to eat a certain amount of calories every day. The most important thing is to hit your caloric needs every day.
Are you going to eat six meals a day or 4 meals or 3 meals is completely up to you. If you find it easier to eat 6 meals a day, and it works for you, then do it.
Eating 5-6 smaller and more frequent meals a day may be a better choice if you want to build muscle, but you are not a big eater or you just feel unpleasant after consuming a large meal.
However many weightlifters and bodybuilders simply don’t have the time to eat more than three meals a day or they feel bad eating every 2-3 hours.
So yes, you can build muscle eating only 3 meals a day. Like we said it’s everything about food quantity and timing.
Here is what works the best for many trainees who eat 3 meals a day. We’ll assume that the workout is in the evening hours, after work and after your lunch.
You should consume around 20%-25% of your total daily calories during breakfast. This means that you’ll have a moderate breakfast. You can have eggs, milk, oatmeal, some salad etc.
So breakfast will not be your biggest meal of the day. You’ll make an exception on rest days though, when breakfast will be the biggest meal.
Lunch will be almost the same size as breakfast (20%-25% of your total calories). We don’t want to overload our digestive system with food shortly before our workout. Choose lean meats like chicken, beef and fish for protein sources and low glycemic index carbs for your carbohydrate sources.
3. Post Workout
It’s time for your workout. Do your workout and consume your protein (30-40 grams of protein ) shake right after your workout along with 30-40 grams of high glycemic index carbs.
Dinner will be the largest meal of the day (except on rest days when breakfast is the largest meal) with 50%-60% of your total daily calorie intake. After the workout your body produces anabolic hormones to recover from the damage you induced to your muscles.
The fact that you have to “load” yourself for dinner does NOT mean that you can eat junk food though. Quality foods like lean meats, fish, brown pasta, potatoes is what you’ll eat for dinner.
So in summary, are 3 meals a day enough to build muscle ?
Yes, it is absolutely possible to build muscle with just 3 meals a day. But like we said – timing and food quantity are important. Some things to remember if your goal is building muscle:
- Be sure you’re achieving a caloric surplus, whether you eat 3 meals a day, or 6 meals a day.
- Be sure you are hitting your macronutrient needs and adjust the food portions to suit your goal weight. Eat a well balanced diet.
- Try to get a quick-digesting protein and simple carbohydrates post-workout.
At the end of the day, if you consume the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, how many times you eat a day is not important.
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This is great information for someone who works out int he afternoon, but what about working out first thing in the morning at 4:30 am?
Just eat your largest meal and the majority of the carbs after your workout. Then do another meal later during the day with moderate amount of carbs. Eat your third meal in the afternoon and try to eat as little carbs as you can (try eating a green sallad or such)