For so long, people have believed that the only two important parameters to maintaining a healthy body weight are exercise and a healthy diet. While these parameters are essential, there is another important element that often goes unnoticed – meal timings.
The time and intervals at which you eat play an important role in determining your overall health. In this article, you will learn more about the best meal times and how they affect your health.
How Do Meal Times Affect Your Health?
Studies have revealed that your meal timings have a direct effect on your weight, saturated fat, and insulin levels. A lot of people don’t see any problem with postponing their meals, especially when they are running late or too busy with important matters. They believe that as long as you do not overeat later; it is not a big deal. But studies have suggested otherwise.
For instance, a recent study done by the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society revealed that it is not just what you feed your body with, but when you feed it that determines your health. The study further revealed that having irregular meals can easily lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure—irrespective of the number of calories you consume.
During the study, the researchers examined international eating patterns and discovered a possible connection between excess body weight and consuming more calories in the evening. They also found that people who constantly eat six meals a day are likely to have better cholesterol and insulin levels than those who have irregular meals.
Although the idea that when you have your meals could affect your overall health may seem like a far-fetched notion, numerous studies are being done as part of chrononutrition – a field of study in which researchers explore the connection between metabolism and circadian rhythms.
You need to understand that your body’s metabolic processes, like appetite, digestion, and metabolism of saturated fat and glucose, follow specific patterns that are repeated every 24 hours. Therefore, having irregular meals can affect your internal body clock, causing obesity and other serious health risks.
Benefits of Maintaining a Consistent Meal Schedule
Regulating Your Body Cycle
Eating a balanced diet, getting enough good sleep, and having well-organized meal timings are forces that you can control. Therefore, you must ensure that you maintain them all the time. Through these habits, your body will get accustomed to a repeated rhythm. Thus, maintaining a disciplined meal schedule is very important if you want to stay healthy and maintain your body’s rhythm.
Your meal schedule also determines your metabolism. In the morning, your metabolism is at its highest. So, if you do not eat enough food at this time, your body won’t sustain the necessary metabolic rate. But as time goes on, your metabolism slows down. Thus, it is important to have your dinner latest by 8 pm for better digestion.
Detoxifying Your Body
Throughout the day, a lot of toxins find their way into your body, especially when you eat and drink. Therefore, your body is designed to get rid of these toxins naturally through the liver. It is important to note that your meal timings have a direct effect on your body’s detoxification activities.
Since your liver goes to work when you sleep, it will be very difficult for your body to detoxify completely if you eat your meals late at night when you are just about to go to bed. So, eating your dinner on time helps to improve the detoxification process.
Normal Meal Times
Most people who are on a weight loss journey tend to focus more on what they eat and forget that when they eat is also equally important. Recent research published in Nutrients Journal of the MDPI revealed that how you choose your meal time will have a huge effect on your weight loss objectives, especially if you are taking diets that work fast.
Even if you don’t want to lose weight, you still need to maintain a proper meal schedule for better health. Here are the best meal times.
Since you’ve spent the entire night without eating, you must fuel your body in the morning. The breakfast sets the stage for your nutritional needs for the entire day while providing you with the energy you need to carry out your tasks effectively.
If you miss your breakfast, you won’t have the energy to face the challenges you are likely to encounter during the day, and you might end up eating snacks or junk foods before lunchtime.
You should have your breakfast within an hour after waking up so that it doesn’t run into your mid-morning snack or lunch. But this depends on the time you wake up. Since most people wake up at 6 in the morning, the best time to have breakfast is between 7 am and 8 am.
You should have your lunch 4 to 5 hours after breakfast. This means that if you normally have your breakfast at 7 am, you should eat your lunch at around 11 am or 12 noon. And if you are unable to have lunch at noon, you should have a snack in between the two meals. This snack is particularly important if you have a busy work schedule that doesn’t allow you to have lunch earlier than 2 pm.
When you are choosing your mid-morning snack, it’s important to include proteins and carbohydrates because they are the most essential nutrients at this time of day. For instance, you can have a low-fat cheese stick with an apple, or some vegetables with a cup of hummus. This snack helps to prevent you from feeling hungry between meals.
A lot of people overeat at dinner in an attempt to make up for what they didn’t have during the day. This normally happens because people have busy schedules during the day that prevent them from having lunch and other important snacks. But failing to eat anything during the day and overeating at dinner is unhealthy.
Your dinner should follow the same plan as the other daytime meals, ensuring that there is a window of not more than 5 hours between your lunch and dinner. So, if you have lunch at noon, you should have dinner between 5 pm and 6 pm. But if this time is not practical, you should have a snack in between to keep you going until around 8 pm.
Best Eating Schedule
• Eat within 30 minutes or 1 hour of waking up
• The perfect time to have breakfast is 7 am
• Do not delay your breakfast later than 10 am
• Make sure you have enough protein in your breakfast
• The perfect time to have your lunch is 12.45 pm
• Try to keep a gap of 4 hours between your breakfast and lunch
• Do not delay your lunch later than 4 pm
• The ideal time to have your dinner is before 7 pm
• You should keep a gap of 3-5 hours between your dinner and bedtime
• Do not delay your dinner later than 10 pm
• Eating close to bedtime will interfere with the quality of sleep
• Never workout (especially lifting weights) on an empty stomach
• The right pre-workout meal should be a protein sandwich (with chicken, tuna, etc.), protein shake, scrambled egg with whole wheat bread, peanut butter sandwich, among others