Meal Timing and Macro Distribution
Your meal frequency should be based on preference – some people prefer larger, less frequent meals, others prefer to eat little and often.
Try to spread your protein intake evenly across 3-5 meals throughout the day, and try to ensure you have some carbohydrate pre-training.
It is a common misconception that eating little and often increases your metabolism. Several studies have shown that the frequency (how often) and quantity (how much) of your meals makes an insignificant difference. Therefore, the meal frequency and quantity you choose should be dependent on personal preference.
Just bear in mind how meal frequency is going to affect overall hunger and satiety. For example, if your goal is fat loss and you are eating 6 meals a day, they are likely going to be very small meals. You may actually be better off reducing your meal frequency to 3/4 meals a day so that each meal is slightly larger and therefore likely to leave you more satisfied.
On the flip side, if your goal is weight gain and you are only eating 2/3 meals per day, you may find it difficult to eat the calories required in each meal because you’ll get full too quickly. In this case, you may actually want to increase your meal frequency so you are able to eat smaller and more manageable meals.
Plan to have your largest meals and / or the majority of your food when your appetite is the highest.
New research is emerging that suggests that whilst total daily protein intake is still the most important, spreading protein evenly throughout the day may be more beneficial by maximising muscle protein synthesis. Think of it like “switching on” muscle repair and rebuild, multiple times per day.
In simple terms, aim for 30-40g of protein 3-5 times per day. Make sure you are getting a significant source of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner and you should be set!
Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred source of energy, meaning it is easily accessible and the most likely to be used during exercise. Therefore, it makes sense to sandwich (no pun intended!) our training sessions with carbohydrates, making sure we get a good bulk of our intake around when we are the most active.
We typically recommend around 50% of your daily intake to be in the 1-2 hours pre and post-exercise. If you can’t eat directly before a workout, try to eat a carb-heavy meal the night before to ensure sufficient muscle glycogen.
Can I eat carbohydrates at night?
Do I need to eat carbohydrates post-workout?
If you are going to be training multiple times per day, eating carbohydrates post-workout may be beneficial for glycogen replenishment. If you are only training once a day, it still makes sense to try and get the majority of your carbohydrates around when you are most active but it’s no essential.
There is currently little evidence regarding fat distribution and what may or may not be best so our typical recommendation would be to either spread fat evenly throughout the day or have it in the meals that are lower in carbs to balance out calories and improve satiety.