What is most important, completing my daily calorie intake regardless of how many meals I eat in a day, or eating 5-6 meals a day?
The frequency of your intake of food doesn't matter. It's a myth suggestions that your metabolism is heightened and keeps your body "burning calories".
Actually the levels rise depending on the quantity you eat. Making the sum all the same in the end of the day.
With that said, eating your total daily calorie intake in one meal in the morning probably won't keep your hunger away for the whole day. So try to spread it out so you aren't hungry.
For some people 3 meals is fine, for others 6 smaller meals is better. But in the end, If the calories are the same the results will be the same.
Multiple small meals just make it easier to shove a lot of food in your face and reach your caloric goal without resorting to "nutritional garbage" (which can be delicious but void of interesting macro or micronutrients and full of calories). By having 6 or 7 small meals, you can keep them "healthy" and make the most of it. But that's it, if you can reach your macros in 3 meals all the better for you.
Chris Aceto (nutritionist, he was working with Jay Cutler back then) advices to eat 6 meals per day with a lot of carb with the breakfast and after the workout. For the 4 other meals keep the carb "low". Keep your protein intake the same for each meal.
I don't have his book under my hand but i give your its name : http://www.amazon.com/Championship-Bodybuilding-Chris-Acetos-Instruction/dp/0966916808
From what I can gather about meal frequency is that:
- Over 3 meals a day, the benefit diminishes greatly
- Below 3 meals a day, and more meals benefit much more
If you can easily eat the amount of healthy food to hit your calorie goals while also hitting your macronutrient goals in 3 meals, use 3 meals.
I know of a couple people who feel physically ill if they try to eat more than a certain amount at a time. For them, higher meal frequency worked better because they were able to get the calories they needed from good food.
Some people find that higher meal frequency interferes too much with their life and struggle to get all the meals in. For those people, fewer meals work better.
Go with at least 3 meals, and get your food from good sources 90% of the time. (That can translate to 3 cheat days a month, or however you want to divide it up). Choose a meal frequency that will work for you and your lifestyle, because sticking with your plan is more important than which of several good plans you choose.