Meal timing: The importance of timing our daily meals
Nutrient timing or meal timing can be very important for many lifestyle areas as well as for many people. For example, if you decide to lose weight, enhance your athletic performance or help your kids to establish daily routines, meal timing is the perfect tool for your physical health!
Meal timing or nutrient timing is the term to identify the activity which involves arranging meals throughout the day and eating them in strategic times (1).
Nutrient timing has been applied in the sports field, but many enthusiasts refer that the multiple benefits that high-performance athletes experiences may be translated and use for weight loss or maintenance, to improve health conditions and even help children to settle healthy habits.
In the following article, we will explain the many benefits meal timing can bring to your lifestyle.
Meal timing and overall health
Recent studies have shown that people with irregular schedules for eating and sleeping had more trouble processing insulin and develop more inflammation over the ones that have a regular circadian rhythm (2).
This happens because the process of transforming carbs into glucose as well as to turn fat and protein into energy requires several organs to synchronize and they also need time to work.
The coordination of several biological processes occurring in the gut, liver, pancreas, muscle and fatty tissue can be interrupted by irregular meal timing, since your body doesn’t know when and how much is going to eat, leading to further health complications.
According to a National UK research that was 70 years long, adults who had an irregular meal routine throughout the years tended to develop a higher risk of suffering from the metabolic syndrome -which includes symptoms such as prediabetes, blood pressure, belly fat, heart issues – than others (3).
Another short study including 36 individuals, half healthy and a half with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that skipping breakfast caused an important and harmful circadian rhythm disruption as well as a dangerous pike in their blood sugar levels (4).
Meal timing and weight loss
If your purpose is to use meal timing to lose weight, scientific research holds your back.
Most Americans tend to eat all day long. They are program to take breakfast, a mid-day snack before lunch, lunch, a mid-day snack and dinner. According to some scientific studies, young adults have 15 hours of waking time, which means this group has a late-night snack after dinner thus increasing glucose levels right before sleeping and contributing to weight gain due to excess calories (5).
A 2017 study shows that in relatively healthy adults, the consumption of breakfast large and high in protein near their waking hours with no snacks trough the day helped them to lose weight while preventing yo-yo effect or long-term weight gain (6).
In addition to this, a 12 to 14-hour fasting can make marvels to your weight loss plan. In the opposite of what you may think (i.e. starving a full day to lose some pounds) the correct arrangement of your daily meals as well as cutting up the snacks through the day will help your system.
By just having dinner at 6 pm every day and breakfast every morning at 8 am you assure your body 12 hours of fasting and its magnificent results for weight loss (7).
Meal timing and its relation with sports
Meal or nutrient timing has been used for high-performance athletes and bodybuilders for over 50 years as the key to improving their efficiency before a contest or final competition.
As you may know, our body feeds from glucose, which comes from the daily carb intake on all of our meals.
To reduce fatigue and muscle soreness as well as reducing muscle recovery times or even gaining more lean muscle, meal timing is the key to achieve an athlete’s body requirements prior to competition (8).
In the case of high-performance athletes, the following recommendations apply to enhance their skills and body conditions before the contest:
- Consume your carbs before training as a fast and easy source of energy for your muscles. By doing this, you will get the most out of your body in every training session.
- Your body needs carbs right after training to replace the energy use for a training session, as well as to aid your muscle recovery and repair
The recommended is to have a protein intake near training but also distributed into regular meals and snacks throughout the day, especially after several days of intensive training.
Furthermore, if you are training seriously or aiming to gain weight for an upcoming competition, you have to time your meals every 2-3 hours, but if your goal is maintaining your current body comp or are in a period of light training aim to eat every 3-4 hours.
However, if you are a “regular person” you can also take advantage of meal timing to enhance your workout results by using exercising supplements or easily digestive meals between 60 to 150 minutes before beginning the training session (9). This will help you to develop more lean muscle.
On the contrary, having a dietary regime and not consuming anything else but proper water intake will help you to lose weight by making you burn more fat, faster (10).
Meal timing and children
As some specialists agree, meals and snacks need to be a program for children, to provide them good nutrition habits a very important value for their adult years (11).
Breakfast needs to be scheduled near to wake up as well as dinner as nearly as possible to bedtime, programming lunch for the middle of the day and one snack a few hours after. For children, snack needs to be after school and for toddlers, it needs to be after their afternoon nap.
The main goal to apply meal timing in kids is to initiate good eating habits which will be related to providing a balanced meal between 3 to 4 hours each time.