Your mother always told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day -- but does it matter when you eat it? And what if your dinner time fluctuates wildly from day to day? Does meal timing actually matter? Yes! Eating at the appropriate times throughout the day will help maximize fat burning, avoid hormonal interference and keep hunger at bay. Here are five tips so you can time your meals to maximize your results.
Start Off on the Right Bite: There's a good reason why I tell patients to eat within one hour of rising. A study from 2005 found evidence that people who skip breakfast compensate later in the day with more refined carbohydrates and fats and fewer fruits and vegetables. Skipping breakfast was also associated with significantly higher fasting cholesterol and impaired insulin sensitivity post-meal.
Eat Less But More Often: By eating smaller meals more frequently (i.e. approximately every three hours), you will help maintain a steady level of blood sugar throughout the day, which is important. Meal frequency may also have a positive impact on your body composition. One older study found that an increase in meal frequency lowered overall body mass in men and had a positive impact on energy levels through the day in both genders. Another study found that spreading out your food intake into many small meals keeps you fuller, longer during the day and also sustains fat oxidation (a.k.a the use of fat as fuel) at night.
Lunch Early: A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that consuming meals earlier in the day was associated with faster and greater weight loss. Research scientists monitored the eating habits and weight loss success of 420 overweight Spanish participants on a 20-week diet program. Participants consumed about 40 per cent of their daily calories (roughly 550 to 570) at lunch. In the end, the group that ate lunch after 3 p.m. lost an average of 17 pounds compared with a 22 pounds in the early-lunch group. The late lunch eaters consumed fewer calories during breakfast and were more likely to skip breakfast than early eaters, which can cause it's own problems. The late lunch group also had lower insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for diabetes and weight gain in general.
Aim for the Same Dinner Time Daily: An older study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology manipulated "dinner time" for 22 obese and 24 healthy-weight individuals to determine whether eating behavior changed when standard mealtimes were altered. They found that the obese group ate more when they thought they were eating after their regular dinner hour than they did when they thought that they were eating earlier.
Skip the Sugar, Not the Meal: Skipping a meal entirely causes a blood sugar imbalance and raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn has a host of negative consequences (from increasing belly fat to disrupting insulin receptors). So despite a busy schedule preparation truly is key when it comes to fat loss.