5 Research-Backed Meal Timing Tips for Weight Loss
You've probably heard everywhere that "timing is everything." This applies to our mealtime, too.
Some research suggests that when you eat could be as important as what you eat. This doesn't mean you can eat whatever -- it just means you need to be mindful of when you consume calories.
Frank A.J.L. Scheer, PhD, is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He mentions how we should expand our weight loss "tool kit," and that meal timing appears very promising. “Given the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, it is clear the current lifestyle recommendations are not effective,” he says.
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In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, results suggest that meal timing may have an impact on our BMI. The researchers noted that individuals with the lowest BMI tended to fast for 18 hours or more between their dinner and breakfast, eating the largest meal first thing in the morning.
The study also found those who had shorter fasting periods and chose to eat larger meals at dinner or skip breakfast had a higher BMI.
Knowing this, here are five strategies you can implement so you can time your meals for maximum impact.
5 Meal Timing Tips
1.) Eat a Bigger Lunch
Give yourself something to look forward to in your day and eat a nice lunch.
A study published in The International Journal of Obesity studied 420 overweight and obese adults. Researchers found that, despite similar calorie consumption and activity levels, those who ate their major meal after 3 p.m. lost less weight than those who have their major meal before 3 p.m.
Researchers believe that diet-induced thermogenesis is to blame. That is, the increased energy expenditure post food intake could be the reason for these results.
Our circadian system impacts our glucose tolerance. That means our ability to lower blood sugar after an evening meal could cause our body to burn fewer calories after an evening meal, rather than an identical meal earlier in the day.
2.) Eat About an Hour After Working Out
Choosing a protein-packed snack for your post-workout refuel will help replenish depleted muscles.
A study posted in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that consuming 25 grams of protein 60 minutes post-workout is an effective way to replenish our muscles.
3.) Sleep Well, Eat Well
Sleep is an important part of weight loss, optimal cognitive function, and physical performance. If you are struggling to sleep at night, your meal could be to blame.
One study suggests that eating a high-fiber, high-protein dinner with less saturated fat, helped adults fall asleep faster. For this study, 30% of total calories should come from fiber, and 17% from protein.
An interesting part about this study is that researchers found that adults who eat a high-fiber, high-protein meal had more time in slow-wave deep sleep. This is important for memory consolidation and improving our immune function. This study also revealed a correlation between a higher saturated meal and less restful sleep and more nighttime arousals.
4.) Watch the Bedtime Snacks
Studies suggest that when we eat a late snack, we are disrupting hormones that regulate appetite and stress. This also leads to a poorer quality of sleep.
Our circadian rhythm slows our metabolism down at night, gearing up for sleep.
This study suggests that eating a large meal right before bed is not the best choice.
Giving your body at least two hours before bed to digest food helps us sleep better.
If you are simply famished and need to get something, try to have a snack like a handful of nuts, a small banana, rice cake with peanut butter, or even cottage cheese with some apple slices.
5.) Start the Day With Protein
All of my friends love waking up to pastries and other sugary grab-and-go items like sugary cereals. Aiming to have a high-protein meal first may help with satiety.
When we eat sweet foods, we get a quick energy spike, with a rapid blood sugar drop later in the day. This is why you need a nap midday.
Studies suggest that eating 45 grams of protein at breakfast is optimal to trigger satiety. This doesn't mean you should have any protein you can get your hands on, so the quality of your calorie counts, too.
Get some quality protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in early to fuel your day.
Wrapping It Up
If your schedule doesn't allow you to maximize when you can eat, making better nutritional choices, using a food journal, and preparing your meals in advance will help.
Getting healthy doesn't mean that we have to start doing everything a "healthy person" does, it means we have to start making progress toward it.