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Fitness & Health

09th May 2018

How many meals should you eat each day? Leading exercise scientist shares his view

It’s an age-old question that confuses many – but now a leading exercise scientist has shed light on how many meals you really need

When you begin a training and diet programme, chances are you’ll ask yourself many questions.

  • How much cardio do I need?
  • How can I add more weight to my bench press?
  • If I don’t have a protein shake within 0.47 seconds of leaving the gym, will I lose all my gains?

With nutrition, something you’ve probably asked yourself is ‘how many meals should I eat each day?’

Many in the fitness industry claim that you HAVE to eat every two/three hours for the sake of your metabolism, but this isn’t 100% true.

A world-renowned exercise scientist at Lehman College New York, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld suggests that the number of meals you need is all relative to the individual:

‘From a fat loss standpoint, it really doesn’t matter. We reviewed all the research on meal frequency and found similar results, regardless of how many meals you eat – provided calories are equated.’

If you’re looking to lose weight, the advice is pretty clear. Calories are crucial.

If you burn off more than you consume, you will lose weight. Whether those calories come from three, four or five meals a day is largely irrelevant.


Schoenfeld says you should listen to your body – in particular, your levels of hunger and feelings of fullness (satiety).

‘Some people have greater satiety with smaller, more frequent meals, while others have more satiety with larger, less frequent meals. So if the goal is fat loss, it really comes down to individual response and personal preference.’

If you’re actively trying to build muscle rather than lose weight, then Schoenfeld states the picture is a little clearer:

‘From a muscle building standpoint, there appears to be a better anabolic response to eating at least 3-4 meals spread out over the day.’

If you’re intent on building biceps that tear through your t-shirt, then maybe you should look to consume more frequent meals.

However, should you constantly cram chicken, broccoli and brown rice into your mouth for every waking minute? The answer to that is a big, fat no.