Many health experts say there is a precise time of the day to eat meals. But for most people, the time of the day they eat their meals is determined by their hunger level, work schedule, medications they take, and many other factors. Sticking to a particular meal time every day is challenging because of the busy life schedules. Research suggests that the time of the day we eat and the amount of time that elapses between meals may profoundly affect health.
Many people feel that what they eat is critical, but what time they eat is not essential. But it is also necessary to know that the body digests food differently at different times of the day. Many of these daily fluctuations are related to the circadian rhythm, which moderates sleep-wake patterns over 24 hours. It is the body’s internal clock, and it reacts primarily to changes in light. This affects mental, physical, behavioral, problems including eating and digestion.
Mealtimes influence circadian rhythm. Eating habits and circadian rhythms constantly interact, but not many details are available regarding this. Scientists are still not sure exactly how much both interact. Researchers have found a link between circadian rhythm, mealtimes, insulin resistance, and weight status.
According to Jonathan C. Jun, MD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, “Your body handles the energy it takes in differently depending on the timing of your meals.”
Following regular mealtime, the schedule is linked to increases in energy, reduced metabolic risk factors for chronic disease, and weight loss. Eating every day at the same time may not be possible. A person’s genetics affect much of how the body regulates circadian rhythms that interact with mealtimes. There is no single best mealtime schedule for everyone. By trial and error, a person can determine the best mealtime schedule.
A quick guide for mealtime schedule –
It is the most important meal of the day. When a person eats breakfast, the person gets the blood sugar pattern for the remainder of the day. It is best to eat in the 1st hour after waking up between 6 and 10 a.m. This is the ideal to prepare for the next meal, which is few hours before breakfast. It has a significant impact on the rest of the body, so it is essential to avoid blood sugar spikes. These spikes in blood sugar can lead to a person feeling up and down throughout the day. Proteins, healthy fat, whole grains should be taken in breakfast.
According to many researchers skipping breakfast may affect diet quality. When a person skips breakfast, they tend to eat more calories at lunch and less nutritious food overall during the rest of the day. Calories should be consumed in the daytime mostly in breakfast rather than in the evening and night and this helps in weight loss.
Every day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., metabolism hits its peak, providing more muscular digestive function and making this the best time to eat lunch. Many researchers have suggested that earlier lunch helps to reduce weight. But genetic factors also play a role in weight loss. New research indicates that early lunch can that an early lunch lead to a healthier microbiome. The microbiome is the bacterias found in the human body and gut that significantly affect overall health.
The best time to have dinner is to eat early in the evening. High-calorie meals to be avoided just before going to bed and throughout the night for better health outcomes. Dyslipidemia is associated with eating late in the night. This is a higher level of fat in the blood which causes chronic diseases. Others relate this with the body’s ability to digest sugar, weight gain, and changes in body fat. The hormone melatonin is released in the night, and when it is released, less insulin is released. An eating meal very close to the release of melatonin is a risk factor for chronic disease.
Factors affecting mealtimes –
- Many medications must be timed with meals and may dictate when a person needs to eat.
- Mealtimes are also scheduled based on work scheduled. Depending upon work, a person might eat late or early.
- Mealtimes will likely fluctuate from day today. It is essential to eat when a person feels hungry, even if it’s at a different time of the day than planned.
Meal tips –
- Plan and prepare meals in advance so that meals can be eaten at a scheduled time. This helps a person to follow the same eating schedule while avoiding unhealthy snacks and fast food.
- Slightly shifting the mealtime to help a person hit the optimal times. If a proper meal schedule has been planned, a person can add exercise to see how the body responds. Try to experiments with workout time.
- Eat during daylight hours. The body is more sensitive to insulin which moves glucose from the blood into most cells to be used as fuel during the day. Insulin resistance is highest at night, and as a result, more fat is stored.
- Don’tDon’t skip breakfast. So if breakfast is skipped frequently, then the body has to be trained not to send hunger signals at that time because they have long been ignored. The body needs energy in the morning, so a person must eat accordingly. If breakfast is reintroduced daily, then natural hunger cues will return. Oatmeal is one of the best for breakfast.
- If a big breakfast isn’t the thing, then lunch should be the main meal of the day. Fill half of the plate with non-starchy veggies, and then divide the 2nd half into lean protein and high-fiber carbs. Lunch should not be skipped.
- Eat a light dinner full of lean protein paired with fiber-packed fruits and veggies. Eat dinner early.
- In the midafternoon, if energy levels plummet, then have a snack. Fruits and dark chocolate can be good options.
- A couple of hours before exercise is the perfect time to fuel up with healthy carbs. Whole grain cereals, wheat toast, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables. High proteins to be avoided. The best time to eat before a workout depends on what kind of workout is planned. High precise training or intense cardio requires more specific meal timings while walking has flexibility.
- Within 1-2 hours of activity, eat a meal that has proteins and carbs. It helps in replenishing energy stores and repair any muscle protein damage that occurred during the exercise.
- If a person needs to be hydrated, they can eat watermelon, iceberg lettuce, celery, cucumber, strawberries, zucchini, and cauliflower because they contain water.
The quantity and quality of food a person consumes affect health. But eating meals at the right time of day can provide many benefits. It can help maintain a healthy weight, keep the energy up and perhaps even fight off disease. Following a mealtime every day is quite difficult. A person’s proper eating schedule may depend on many factors like daily routine, genetics, and health conditions. By keeping the fundamentals of mealtimes in mind while allowing flexibility, a person can feel confident about a meal schedule.