Three Meals a Day, Intermittent Fasting, or Both?

Over the past couple of years, I have done a lot of research on intermittent fasting (IF). My own experiences with IF were life changing! Yes, I really did have an epiphany when I first started IF. It totally changed the way I think and feel about eating. I experienced tremendous benefits from the various methods of IF, and had some of the best results with my clients, ever.

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There were some pieces missing with IF though. It worked for many, but not for all people. I noticed that those who experienced the benefits of IF at first, were not always able to sustain the IF lifestyle.

I also noticed that some of my clients (and myself), had trouble getting in all of the proper nutrients that they needed to consume each day. Remember, one of the keys to health and fat loss is to reduce nutrient deficiencies.

Another reason I felt IF may be hard for people to always follow are the social barriers it imposes on people. Many of my clients have either breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings or events. Their biological clock since they were born has told them to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Having three meals a day seems to fit just about everyone’s lifestyle.

Intermittent fasting also has so many variations that it got hard to coach each person for each variation. I would get so many questions on what to do and how people could take short cuts when doing IF.

▪   Do I have to wait 16 hours before I eat when doing the Lean Gains method, or can I just wait 12 hours?
▪   If I am doing the 20/4 Warrior Diet, can I eat just a little bit during my fast to get me through?
▪   Do I have to do IF everyday, or just once in a while?

These were all valid questions that were debatable. As I noticed more and more of these types of questions popping up, I looked to see how I could develop a “base” type of eating plan, and compliment it with IF.

It came to the point where people wanted to find the easiest way to do IF, and in the end, it really wasn’t IF, and became a 3-meal a day plan. But it worked! So, again, it made me think a little bit more about the “Power of 3.”

Before I continue, I want to give you a recap on some of the downfalls of IF, which are:

▪   It only has a 25% success rate for women, and an 85% success rate for men. Women make up the majority of my clientele.
▪   People couldn’t get through the initial stages of hunger and would end up binging.
▪   People wanted to find the easiest way to do IF, and wanted to create their own IF plan, and not adhere to the actual protocol.
▪   They couldn’t sustain an IF lifestyle, long-term.
▪   People ran into social problems (breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings).
▪   They were not getting all of the proper nutrients in each day.

Again, I still feel there are amazing benefits when doing intermittent fasting. It works for a lot of people, and I still practice it from time to time. The number of meals I eat per day varies from 2 to 3 and sometimes I even extend that to 4 on weekends! Still, IF does not seem to work as someone’s eating base.

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All this being said, as long as we eat the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency is a matter of personal preference! 

It all comes down to what best fits your schedule and how your body responds best. If you like eating 6 times a day and that works, keep doing it! If you like to only eat a couple big meals a day and fast 16-20 hours, do it!

Brad Schoenfeld wrote a great article on T-Nation about what meal plan worked the best, three meals a day or six meals a day. After reading this multiple times, my mind was made up. For various reasons, 3-meals a day just made sense to make it your “base” eating protocol.

I also was very intrigued by the Editor of T-Nation, TC Luoma’s article on the 5/2 Fat Loss Diet For Lifters.  This article talks about how you can adhere to a normal eating schedule, say 3+ meals a day, for 5-days, and then perform a form of intermittent fasting on off-lifting days to help increase insulin sensitivity (one of the huge benefits of IF), and prime the body to burn fat and build muscle.

Both of these articles really got my brain spinning, and also gave me some great affirmation that I too was onto something. It popped in my head that I now had the perfect combination of eating frequency for people to utilize everyday, as well as the incorporation of IF during certain periods of time to help reset the metabolism. My big a-ha moment!

The 3-meal a day eating protocol combined with the occasional fasting period could be implemented into almost anyone and everyone’s lifestyle. You didn’t have to be married to one type of eating protocol, and it left you with the flexibility to eat according to what worked for you at that current time.

You could allow yourself enough meal frequency to get all of your nutrients in, but not eat too much to where you ate a surplus of calories, stimulated insulin too much, became too hungry, or became frustrated with missing meals.

The How To 

This is an example meal plan template for someone that works out first thing in the morning and is looking to optimize fat loss. Adjust portions to your individual needs.

Pre-workout:

2 scoops of Branched Chain Amino Acids with 16-24 ounces of water, or, 25-40 grams of whey protein. (SFH or Progenex) No need for carbs here, since your glycogen storage is good to go in the morning and your primary goal is to lose body fat.

Meal One/Post-Workout 

Super Shake (choose a protein, fat, fruit, green food, and blend it with ice and water). If you want to see more on how to make super shakes, you can check out my blog here. 

Meal Two:

  • 1-2 palms of protein (organic chicken, grass-fed beef, organic eggs, etc.)
  • 0.5-2 cupped handfuls of carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, jasmine rice, quinoa)
  • 1-2 fistfuls of vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens, peppers, cruciferous veggies)
  • 1-2 thumbs of fat (extra virgin olive oil, almonds, avocados)

Meal Three: 

  • 1-2 palms of protein (organic chicken, grass-fed beef, organic eggs, etc.)
  • 0.5-2 cupped handfuls of carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, jasmine rice, quinoa)
  • 1-2 fistfuls of vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens, peppers, cruciferous veggies)
  • 1-2 thumbs of fat (extra virgin olive oil, almonds, avocados, grass-fed butter)
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Find What is Best for You 

I know that meal frequency can be a confusing topic. In the end, listen to your body and find what works for you.

All the best,

JG

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