The Basics of Meal Timing and Eating Habits
Meal habits and timings have been changed a lot nowadays as compared to the past. Most adults eat about 4 to 8 times a day without taking two or three proper meals. Much of our daily calories come from untimely snacks rather than meals.
According to research, before the 1980s, adults consume 82-85% of calories from meals and the remaining calories from snacks. Nowadays, meals only make up 70-75% of our daily calories, and the remaining come from snacks. Less than 1% of adults eat or drink from 1 am to 6 am.
The ideal timing for meals is as follows:
- Eat a high protein and calorie-dense breakfast. The ideal time is 7 am and within 30 minutes after you wake up.
- Eat high-calorie lunch after four hours of breakfast. The ideal time is 1 pm and should not delay 4 pm.
- Dinner should one half as compared to lunch and ideally at 7 pm. Eat dinner before 3 hours of sleep.
- Take snacks based on natural foods in between meals.
What Do I Need to Know About Meal Timing?
Meal timings are almost as significant to health as the meal ingredients or components. You should follow proper meal timings and also consider different approaches to have better health.
Here we will discuss some scientifically proven habits and tactics of eating:
- Take meals and snacks alternatively at specific times throughout the day to manage calories demand and hunger. The best way is to take 3 meals and 2 snacks per day.
- Take meals and snacks during a 12-hour time period in a day. The ideal 12-hour time period is 6 am to 6 pm.
- Take a greater number of calories during the daytime meals that include breakfast, morning snacks, and lunch. Evening snacks and dinner should have fewer calories.
- Eat natural foods and snacks that are nutrient-dense rather than processed or packed foods that contain a considerable number of sugars and fats.
- You can consider different approaches according to your goal, like gaining, or maintaining or losing weight. For example, intermittent fasting is a scientifically proven approach for obese, diabetics, and cardiac patients.
It helps to decrease the number of calories as well as better metabolic control. However, adding a high-calorie post-workout meal is best for people who want to gain weight.
Medical Considerations When Scheduling Your Meals
The timing of meals significantly affects circadian rhythm and metabolic changes in our bodies. The most common disorders related to unhealthy meal timings are obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Circadian Rhythm and Metabolism
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in our brain is the main control system of the circadian rhythm. SCN also communicates with neural and humoral pathways that send feedback signals back to hormone-sensitive areas of SCN.SCN also controls gene rhythms in the tissues. This whole circadian system control metabolic processes, energy generation, and energy usage.
In normal individuals, SCN drives the timing of feeding. Irregular meal timings cause separation of feedback connections between SCN and food availability. It results in changing the metabolic processes of tissues due to several changes in gene rhythms. When the endogenous circadian system is disrupted, its clinical signs are evident in the form of failure of the physiological metabolic processes.
It may result in irregular fat distribution, increased density of blood and narrowing of vessels due to fats, increased blood glucose, and a decrease in sensitivity of tissues to insulin. All these changes predispose to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Blood Sugar Considerations
The timing of meals affects your blood sugar levels. In diabetic patients and people who have an increased risk of diabetes, meals should be spaced 4 hours apart to stabilize glucose levels in the blood. But if you feel hungry, take a snack in-between meal. A single large meal can boost blood glucose suddenly that may result in severe consequences in diabetic patients. Glucose levels fall after 2-3 hours of a meal, no matter how much big a meal you take. A single large meal is also bad for healthy individuals because it may result in a lack of energy once the glucose levels fall in the blood.
Benefits of Eating Meals on Time
Maintain Proper Routine
Taking meals at regular times can help you maintain a better routine. You will feel more stress-free, acquire increased self-control, get a timely and sound sleep, and wake up on time for work.
Taking meals regularly gives enough time to your digestive tract to properly digest and absorb the meals and nutrients, respectively.
Reduce Fat Stores
Regular timing of meals helps to decrease fat stores in the body. When you take smaller 5 meals instead of 2-3 large meals, your body will use more fats present in the diet to provide energy, thus decreasing the fat stores.
Should You Eat Right Before Bed?
Eating before bed is not a healthy practice due to its following effects:
- Sleep disturbance depending on the type of food you eat
- Acid reflux causing heartburn due to the horizontal position of the body during sleep
- Decrease the rate of body metabolism that may cause slow digestion and weight gain
- Stomach pain is also common in people having large meals before bed
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That’s it for now.