Q & A

A recent question by a reader:

Question:

Hi! My question is: isn’t it all about calories? If I eat 1,200 calories, does it matter if I take them spread out over the day, or in a short period?

Answer:

Overall calorie intake is critical, but energy metabolism isn’t simple.

The pure unfed state has metabolic, physiological, hormonal, and psychological benefits that, in summary, contribute greatly to sustainable weight loss.

Having said that, yes you are correct that eating 1200 calories in two meals or 6 meals still yeilds almost the same weight loss, and they both work — so long as calories are controlled.

The problem with frequent small meals for many people is that they eventually turn into frequent larger meals.

Also, the habit of frequent, small meals throughout the day may induce an appetite pattern that makes it uncomfortable when a meal is inadvertently missed. Hunger, which is an adaptable phenomenon, also appears more frequently, making it harder to control the diet.

This frequent meal pattern produces in some people eating obsession — constantly thinking about the next meal.

Frequent eating throughout the day also may produce a psychological dependency on the act of eating.

Also, frequent small meals may diminish the “importance” of food, as many people may get into the habit of eating mindlessly.

Finally, breaking 1200 calories into 5 or 6 small meals means that you’re reduced to eating very little food at any feeding time, which diminishes satiety and satisfaction for many people… at least in the long term.

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9 Responses to Q & A

  1. Bangkok Jay says:

    For caloric deficits, I’m in total agreement to have 2 satisfying and satiating meals. As a night owl, I eat at noon and my 2nd meal at 6-7pm.

    Lately I find it better if I try to eat my “lunch” modestly and load my dinner instead, leaving me feeling fed all the way until I go to bed at 3-4am. As for any snacks, I keep it within my eating window and more often I’ll choose coffee with heavy cream rather than nuts as before. Satiates me more but as a consequence, sometimes makes me less hungry for dinner. Still I tell myself to eat dinner *now* knowing if I don’t, the hunger pangs will come rather than never. Took about 2-3 weeks for the late night hunger to disappear (is ghrelin responsible for this?)

    PS My target also is around 1200-1400 cals/day. And since no coffeeshops here carry heavy cream, I bring my own small vial of it whenever I go. Better taste than any latte, sorry.

    • Johnny says:

      Yep. I find it so easy when I make a conscious decision to not eat for a specified period of time. Just turn “it” off, sort to speak. Close the kitchen.

      Then when I eat, I feel no restriction. I enjoy food. So easy, really.

      Most people are surprised that a short break from eating is a lot easier than they had imagined.

      And, yes, coffee with real cream is far better than the most expensive latte!

      Best,
      Johnny

  2. Stephon says:

    Johnny,
    First off been reading your site for about a week and one word…finally! I too was obsessed with mass and size and at 5′5′ I ballooned up to 186lbs,I also aquired a lot of bodyfat then too.Now I too desire to be lean and asthestically pleasing to the eye,as well as the fact that I like wearing fitting hip clothes and that weight forced me to wear baggy, concealing, clothing.

    Now I am down to about 162lbs and 15olbs is my goal.I want to lose a bit more mass as well as bodyfat and as of now I have been eating paleoish for about 3 mos.I went from 3 days a week of heavy compound lifting( 5×5 type training) to one strength traing day and some bodyweight workouts to your schedule of 2 days a week adding some isolated work,and it actually felt good doing bicep curls,lateral raises,and tricep exts again.

    I didn’t mean to blabber off so much,just trying to give you an idea of where I am.My question is as far as isolation exercises which do you think are the best for biceps,triceps,and shoulders/abs?and possibly rep range I did supersets with 1 drop set within a set,is this good or too much.I would appreciate your input,please.
    Thank you
    Stephon.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Stephon,

      Thank you for reading.

      Being lean and well-defined definitely feels better, physically and psychologically. And it’s healthier.

      I feel that functional strength is important for the average person, but also appreciate that people in general like to look good. As such I believe that regular (1 to 2 times a week) heavy lifting is important. The rest can be for muscle-specific work to induce a certain physique.

      Isolated work for specific muscle groups, therefore, can be used to help manipulate the aesthetics.

      Stephon, don’t worry so much about what is the perfect volume of work — you’ll find out by listening to the response of your body. Some people can do more volume than others, while others require less. In general, most people need less work in the gym than they think; just keep that in mind.

      You can do pre-fatiguing sets, supersets, dropsets, etc. Make sure you repeat the specific exercise several times through a certain period (2 to 4 weeks) before moving on to a different exercise altogether. This way there’s repetitive stimulus for adaptation to take place. Work hard, and try to either lift more weight, or do more repetitions, or do more work in less time. Or a combination of those.

      An increased in work product in the same or less time really helps with hypertrophy (and metabolic adaptation).

      But don’t spend all your time in the gym. Exercise obsession sucks.

      Best,
      Johnny

  3. Rick says:

    Hey Johnny,

    Love your site!

    I lost about 35-40 pounds over the last 6 months and lately I am trying to get a little more mass, mostly in my shoulders and upper back. My main focus is still staying lean and maintaining good tone or density in my muscles.

    I have gone up from 2x a week to 3x lately for the extra mass. I start each workout with my heavy lifts (ie-overhead or bench press, squat or deadlift) for 5×5 style. I then do a few sets of targeted isolation exercises for 2 or 3 sets of 8-10. Sometimes I will end with a high rep set to pump the muscle up (usually only do this for delts and arms). I guess the main reason I am doing heavy lifts at the beginning of each session is for the testosterone boost and CNS benefit.

    My question for you is this: Do you think what I am doing is better for my goal? Or, would you suggest that I do one heavy day, one isolation or BB style day, and a bodyweight day?

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks for the nice comment.

      Concerning your exercise plan, I think it looks solid. I personally favor doing heavy lifting (though not necessarily the 5X5 method, as there are so many ways you can do this) once a week, another day of muscle-specific work, and occasionally throw in a bodyweight workout (intense interval-based). People respond differently, depending on their exercise history, experience, genetics, health status, etc. My best advice is to vary your exercise regularly, listen to your body, and don’t over think things.

      Best,
      Johnny

  4. Yannick Messaoud says:

    Eating 6 meals a day is the dumbess thing i have ever read, and yes i tried it many times, and failed each time to reach my goals. Eating 3 small meals and 3 whey protein shakes and gaining fat around my waist, imagine. Protein intake are highly over rated as well.

    Now i enjoy fasting and eat when hungry, no more hey i need to eat, or i have to stop at a fast food place to get breakfast before i start my work day. Its so easy to skip breakfast and now its getting easier to skip lunch as well.

    • Johnny says:

      Yes, as you and so many have discovered, IF is not only so liberating, but it’s actually better for you!

      Best,
      Johnny

  5. Bella says:

    Slam dunkin like Shaquille O’Neal, if he wrote ifnortmavie articles.

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