BistroMD Health Library

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Cholesterol

Explore the myths surrounding this popular health topic and learn how to restore and maintain healthy cholesterol.

You Are When You Eat

We know you've heard, "You are what you eat," but there may be a new belief: "You are WHEN you eat." Does when you eat matter for weight loss? With 24 hours in the day, there's a lot of opportunities to grab something to eat. So learn when, not what, we should be grabbing for something to eat.

You Are When You Eat


Okay, so it's often said and heard "You are what you eat" as a hypothetical reference. However, is "You are when you eat" then new notion? Although breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, what truth stems from that concept? Or is there any truth? Does when you eat matter for weight loss? Can eating late in the day halt weight loss progress? With 24 hours in the day, there are multiple opportunities to grab something to eat. So when, not what, should we be grabbing for foods?

The Daily Eating Pattern

A standard Westernized day begins around 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. Kids are off to school and adults are heading to work. With busy mornings, skipping breakfast is not a foreign concept. However, the data regarding breakfast intake and weight is inconsistent. Some research suggests those who eat breakfast have lower weights while others conclude skipping breakfast promotes weight loss. Nonetheless, eating breakfast helps to break the fasted state and stabilize blood sugars, especially necessary and important for those living with diabetes. Consuming a well-balanced breakfast also revs metabolism back up for the rest of the day.

The eating pattern continues next at lunch. The timing varies between individuals due to work schedules and the lunch shifts at schools. Some may have lunch as early as 10:30 a.m. while others might not hit that lunch break until 2:30 p.m. Those with the later lunch are actually more at risk at overeating. When overly hungry, that hankering appetite is fulfilled by grabbing readily accessible foods and eating quickly. Those who eat quicker are more prone to eat more, as the satiety hormone is yet to kick in and make you realize "Oh, I'm full!"

Since the brain takes about 20 minutes to register a full stomach, eating slower can reduce the opportunity to eat too much. Since work or school demands are the ultimate determining factor for lunchtime, pack snacks rich in healthy carbohydrates and protein. The carb source provides energy while protein can help sustain fullness for a longer period of time.

Like lunch, eating dinner varies in time. Other obligations such as after-school baseball practice or a work meeting can interfere with that evening meal time. Preferably, meals should not be consumed before about three hours of bedtime. Since the stomach averages three hours to empty following a meal (dependent on quality and quantity of food), going to bed straight after dinner is not ideal. The consumption of a large meal shortly before bedtime can ultimately lead to weight gain.

Research shows those who consume their largest meal and calories earlier on in the day are more capable of losing more weight compared to those who eat it later on. Furthermore, gravity has a large role in the digestion process. Crashing on your bed or even a couch following any meal can prevent the food contents from gravitating down the intestine. The delayed digestions can result in gastrointestinal distress and exaggerate heart burn.

The Bottom Line

Ideally, meals should be well-balanced and consumed at a timely basis. Eating meals or snacks within three to four hours of one another can reduce the risk of overeating, thus decreasing the chance for potential weight gain. However, busy schedules and those who work night-shifts and night owls may have different eating times to better accommodate their work-sleep pattern. In this case, the quality of the meal should be stressed most. None-the-less, eating to nourish your body holds some of the utmost importance!

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