Now that the New Year is underway - like many other people out there - you are starting to make a more conscious effort about what you put into your mouth. That is a very smart move since in all reality, diet is going to play the biggest role - training will be secondary - in terms of how your physique looks.
Provided you have set up a decent strength training program, if your diet is on track, you will see progress. Look at it the other way around however, a super detailed training program that took hours upon hours to design, coupled with a less than stellar diet and you are going nowhere fast.
Along with this increased attention to your diet, you are likely trying to eat every three hours on the dot because you heard this was the thing to do if you wanted to succeed. You've heard people tell you that if you wait four to five hours between meals your body is not going to have a continual supply of amino acids for muscle repair and may even start using its own muscle tissue for fuel!
Obviously this is NOT what you want. So now you have your schedule set out and you will consume a meal every three hours, not a second sooner or later. Perfect.
Then the day comes along and something, no doubt out of your control, comes along and forces you to wait an extra hour before consuming your carefully planned and measured meal. Damn! Now your whole day is messed up, you have probably sacrificed some muscle, not to mention you can practically feel yourself getting smaller.
If this is what you think, you have taken this whole three hour rule WAY TOO FAR.
Consider this. Have you ever performed an empty stomach cardio session to try and blast away those fat stores? After all, if you perform cardio without eating any carbohydrates you will most definitely get straight to the source of all your problems - the annihilation of body fat!
If in fact you have done morning cardio without eating, then think about this for a second. You went 7-8 hours all night without food, got up and THEN performed exercise at a moderate pace - and you were worried that going 3 hours and one minute without food while you were sitting in your desk chair was going to be catabolic? How much sense does that really make? Not a whole lot.
Workout Nutrition Is The Most Important
The important thing you need to remember about a successful diet is that yes timing does count - around your workouts. This is when your body is in most need of certain nutrients and getting them delivered on time is definitely worth your while and something to be concerned over.
The rest of the day, for the most part, the only thing you need to worry about is getting in the proper amount of calories and in proper macronutrient ratios. If you wait 3 hours, 4 hours, heck, even 6 hours between meals, you are going to be okay, I promise you're muscles won't be eaten alive.
Simply Avoiding Binging
Your metabolism is not going to come to a halt and you certainly will not lose muscle mass. The biggest advantage of eating frequent meals every three hours is simply so that you do not get ravenous and then go and binge for your next meal.
Since you already have a daily calorie allowance and have planned your meals out and are determined to stick with them (which you have right?) - binging is not an issue for you. Secondly, eating more frequently stabilizes blood sugars better.
While it's good to be slightly anal when it comes to your diet, since as stated above, it is really what is going to determine whether you see results, you should never let yourself get so worked up over slight scheduling changes that you get all stressed out.
In reality, becoming so stressed out over this is going to increase the amount of cortisol in your system and that is going to potentially have a negative effect when it comes to keeping your muscle and reducing the chance body fat is stored.
High levels of cortisol tend to be catabolic and promote the body to store excess abdominal region fat so keeping stress down is of primary importance.
Taking time to develop proper stress reducing techniques, be it relaxing in front of your favourite TV show, taking a long hot bath (also good for muscle recovery) or calling up a friend you haven't spoken to in a long time will pay off for you in the end - much more than worrying about the clock ticking away since you last ate.
So remember, get your pre and post workout meals in on time, whenever you workout if you want to progress. Then focus on getting your total calories for the day in line. If that comes in the form of 3 meals, 5 meals or you just really enjoy the process of eating and want 10 meals, go for it. It is not going to make any significant difference in the end.