Diet goes hand in hand with fitness when it comes to bodybuilding. Or any other type of training goal for that matter. Sure, you might be able to get away with eating a little off the mark from time to time, but the more serious you are with your diet, the better results you’ll get. And this can’t be stated enough when it comes specifically to bodybuilding.
If you add the dimension of weight loss to the mix, then it’s even more important. That then begs the question of just how many meals per day is optimal for a bodybuilder to eat to lose fat? Well, to understand the answer, we first need to understand how weight gain works.
How weight is gained
Science likes to tell you one thing, but your body often likes to believe something else. Well, there’s one thing that is a complete fact across all dimensions; your body needs a certain amount of calories to make it through a day of activity.
The amount of activity might vary dependant on whether you’re a lazy slob, competitive bodybuilder, lawyer or toll booth operator. But that doesn’t even really matter. The ONLY thing that matters is this:
If you eat more calories than your body needs for your daily grind, you will gain weight.
If you want to get fancy, this is called a caloric surplus. And this is also what can result in evil stares at yourself in the mirror when you recognize that your pants ain’t fittin so good anymore.
The good news is if you eat fewer calories than you consume, you’ll experience a caloric deficit. The wages of this process is weight loss, and that’s what you should fix your eyes on.
So how many meals per day are optimum to lose weight?
Here’s the thing. You’re probably looking for the ‘secret’ optimum number of meals to eat per day to lose all that spare fat you’ve been carrying around. The truth is, there is no secret.
Sorry to say it, but fat loss just doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t matter if you eat six meals a day, five meals a day, three meals a day or even two meals a day!
If your body is burning more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. That means you have to rely on good old calorie counting and hard training sessions to shift it. And if you don’t like that answer, you’re gonna have to bring it up with mother nature.
Further tips to consider
While the number of meals you eat may not matter, the number of calories and where they come from really do. So what’s the deal?
Unlike ‘normal dieters’, when bodybuilders lose weight, things need to be a little different. Why? Because if you simply stick yourself on the average dieter’s 1,500 calorie-a-day diet, you’ll lose muscle mass (and that’s the last thing you want, right?).
First things first, it may be a really good idea not to change anything you’re currently doing and just track your calorie intake for a few days. Then, add all your totals up and divide by the number of days you’ve been tracking. This will give you a daily average. Now, subtract 250 from that number and aim to eat that many calories a day.
Congratulations! You just created a deficit.
Feel free to eat 3,4, 5 or even 6 meals a day if it tickles your fancy. Just divide your new calorie limit by the number of meals you plan on eating. The most important thing here is that a slight calorie deficit exists.
You absolutely must keep working out throughout a cut – otherwise, your muscle will be the first thing to get hit. Your body needs to know that muscle’s still needed to make sure it gets itself into fat burning mode instead. And if you don’t see any progress after a couple of weeks? Drop another 250 calories and keep going. But be careful, you don’t want to cut too fast or you risk serious muscle wastage.
You might be thinking of taking a ketogenic or paleo approach with your diet for faster weight loss, and that’s fine. But just be aware of something. Your muscles need glycogen to press, push and pull weights.
If you go too far with the carb depletion, you run the risk of losing out on muscle gain and you can certainly lose strength.
It’s in your best interests to follow a more balanced approach where you eat a combination of quality protein, healthy fat and complex carbs in every meal. A baked chicken breast with steamed brussels sprouts coated with coconut oil and quinoa is just one good example of a balanced meal.
A word about sleep
Although you might’ve been told to wake up in the middle of the night to eat cottage cheese or suck down a protein shake by some dieting looney, don’t be so naive.
Do you know what happens when you sleep? Your immunity goes up, your cells regenerate and you go completely into recovery mode. Plus, your organs get a break from digesting food. This includes your pancreas, which releases insulin to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Having this new-found knowledge, it should be obvious that you shouldn’t be eating late at night if you care about your health, so don’t! You’re best served by stopping all foods and drinks by 7pm.
People often try to make things more complicated than they need to be. To lose weight as a bodybuilder, just like anyone, you need to get your diet tuned in. Failure to do so will lead to a failure to lose weight.
Unlike most people though, bodybuilders have the added advantage of holding more muscle mass on their body. This leads to a higher metabolism and results should be reasonably fast.
Not soon enough? Try supplementation to help with the process.
Ultimately, what really matters is that you give your body the right nutrition each day to support weight loss while preserving your hard earned muscle. The frequency of the meals which provide that nutrition doesn’t matter – the nutrients and correct calorie intake do!
What are your favorite cutting meals? Tell us about them in the comments below.