I always believed that the new school approach of six to eight meals a day was not only overkill, but went so contrary to how human beings have evolved as a species that there were likely negative results to both our health, and to our muscle gaining efforts as well. Having spent the majority of our existence as hunters and gatherers, the option to eat more often than once, or twice a day at most has not been available. I believe that we grew by design to function optimally by following this protocol, as adaptation is something that all species that have made it this far are extremely good at.
Until recently I had little to back this up other than my own theories regarding meal frequency, and insulin sensitivity for example. Now I have learned that there is also the issue of our muscle tissue becoming insensitive to further stimulation by amino acids, as a result of too frequent feeding, which leads further to an increase in protein oxidation in the liver. Eating more frequently than every three hours is not only unnecessary, because the meal will take that long to digest, but could possibly be detrimental.
Given a moderately sized whole food meal, the body will generally remain in an anabolic state for at least five to six hours, even longer depending on the foods. We can use five hours as the upper for time between meals if we want to be certain we are remaining in an anabolic state. This means a time-lapse between meals of three to five hours. This will keep the body in an overall anabolic state without issues regarding too frequent, or infrequent consumption of meals.
Athletes, or those whose caloric requirements are extremely high may fall outside of this rule. Regular individuals like you or I, with lower total energy intakes may be best served using larger meals eaten less frequently. This can also be an issue of practicality. Those who work jobs and are unable to fit in a meal every three hours no longer need worry about becoming catabolic, and losing muscle as a result. A solid food meal containing a high quality protein, some carbohydrates, fat and fiber eaten every five hours will almost certainly maintain an anabolic state.