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The Importance of Meal Timing

Every person trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain has heard about controlling calories. While reducing the number of calories you eat is a vital part of controlling weight, timing your meals may be an equally strong factor. Even if you drastically reduce calories and improve the quality of your diet, eating at the wrong times could undo your efforts.

Subscribing to a plan like Nutrisystem is only so effective, if you’re eating at the wrong time. Despite Nutrisystem cost, you’re not going to get anywhere eating at times where you’re not regularly active, when your metabolism tends to slow down.

Meal Timing and Metabolism​

If you’re trying to lose weight, you want the food you eat to be converted into energy as efficiently as possible. You don’t want to have extra calories that end up being stored as fat. An overall reduction in calories won’t do any good if you eat those calories at a time when you aren’t going to burn them off. A study in mice showed that eating at the wrong time hindered weight loss even when calories were reduced by over 30 percent.

This is particularly true when you eat late at night or within hours of going to bed. When you sleep, your metabolism slows down. Most of the calories your body consumes during this resting period is converted to fat. It is important not to eat dinner too soon before bedtime or to wake up and snack in the middle of the night. Dinner should preferably be a smaller meal as well.

If you are consistently hungry before bed or in the middle of the night consider more carefully what you are eating for dinner. A dinner high in carbs will likely leave you feeling hungry sooner. Aim for a dinner that is higher in protein and fats and lower in carbs. Just be careful and don’t go overboard on calories. The perfect meal will be small but filling.​

Your metabolism is going to be at its height in the middle of the day when you are most alert and working. That means the best time to consume most of your calories for the day is lunch. When dieting, you can be comfortable making lunch your biggest or most calorie-intense meal without too much concern. Eating a full lunch will also allow you to eat a smaller dinner without feeling hungry before bed.​

The Breakfast Conundrum​

There is mixed research regarding breakfast. While long heralded as the most important meal of the day, some research indicates that breakfast may be something you should keep small or even skip altogether, depending on your overall diet or lifestyle.​

The idea of skipping breakfast comes from the benefits of intermittent fasting. Unlike a prolonged or religious fast that could last days or weeks, intermitted fasting means a short daily fast that consistently forces your body into its fat-burning mode. This happens when your body is deprived of stored glycogen and must turn to fat as a fuel source. As soon as you eat, your body focuses on restoring glycogen, and you may never burn fat at all if you are consistently giving your body fuel. This is another reason against midnight snacking, or really any snacking, done between meals.

Arguments for breakfast attest that it provides the body with vital energy for the day and that depriving the body of nutrients when they are needed to become awake and alert does more harm than good. The best thing to do is try it both ways and see how you feel. Always stay in tune with your body and let it be the judge of what will work for you. You shouldn’t feel like you’re starving or exhausted.​

Body Balance and Rhythm​

Your body operates on a natural clock known as the circadian rhythm. This biological process generally determines when we sleep and wake up and when we feel more alert or more tired. Your body is naturally programmed to feel tired at night and wake up in the morning. Altering this natural rhythm is difficult and may have negative health consequences, which is why it is so difficult to transition to or from a graveyard shift, for example.​

While sleeping obviously impacts this rhythm. Eating has also been shown to impact it. Your body becomes accustomed to an eating schedule. It will get hungry at certain times and may even crave certain types of food at certain times depending on how you usually eat. Once your body gets off its schedule, by eating too late at night, it can take several days of focused effort to get it back on track.​ ​

Sleep and a proper cycle of rest also have an effect on appetite. Those who sleep restfully tend to have fewer cravings and feel hungry at more regular times. Those who go without sleep, are woken often, or have a poor sleeping environment with too much light or sound are more likely to eat carbs and sugar. It is important not to ignore the link between sleep and diet.​

Armed with the right information and a plan, you can work with your body to maximize the benefits of a healthy diet. Respond to your body’s natural rhythms and establish a healthy cycle for both sleeping and eating. This can take some work and adjustments to your schedule, but it is well worth it for your health.

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