Let’s add another layer of complexity and talk about food timing—
A caveat is required up front: general recommendations will generally work for a general population. Without accounting for sleep quality, recovery protocols, supplementation, and stress levels it’s impossible to make a recommendation that will work for every individual.
I just started regularly eating whole, nutrient dense foods
If you’ve just begun exploring the wilderness of whole, nutrient dense foods and you’re working to build a diet that consists of at least 80% whole, nutrient dense foods then please eat three large meals a day. You’re engaging in potent medicine and concentrating on anything other than good food choices will be as distracting as it is ineffective. Note: if you don’t like eating large meals, try 4-6 medium sized meals, or three medium meals and two snacks. Find what works for you in your next context.
I regularly eat whole, nutrient dense foods but I am holding onto body fat
First, if your diet already consists of at least 80% whole, nutrient dense foods and you’re having trouble losing fat, try moving your starches to immediately post workout with one more dose during your last meal of the day. Pair the starch with a protein to take advantage of the “shuttling effect”. Post-workout starches will, for lack of a better word, mainline protein and begin the recovery process immediately. Also, avoid—avoid—avoid liquid foods. This means protein shakes and mashed fruits, like apple sauce. The lack of a cell wall or any other substance that can slow digestion has the potential to spike insulin and signal your body to hold on to fat.
I regularly eat whole, nutrient dense foods but I want to build muscle
You, my friend, the hard gainer should follow a hybrid of the above recommendations. First, eat whenever you’re hungry, with a specific emphasis on fat and protein sources. Next, in addition to eating when you’re hungry eat 6 medium sized meals a day. This will probably feel like work, but just like losing fat, anything worth doing will be hard to achieve. Stuff your face. Finally, liquid meals are your boon and should be dosed in addition to your 6 regular meals and snacks. The same insulin spiking properties that hurt our mesomorphs will, potentially, pack lean and useful tissue onto your frame.
Next week we’ll talk about digestive issues caused by common PNC foods. Hang tough!