For most of us, our mealtime is affected by our work schedule, hunger level, and our daily medications. Sticking to a particular time to have meals is not possible as it may change throughout.
There are numerous questions that bother us often like, is there a particular time for having a particular meal and does it really matter if the time is not taken into consideration.
It is believed that the time we eat meals and the time gap between the two meals has an effect on health.
Why Does Having A Mealtime Matters?
Most of us believe that what we eat matters, not when we eat. But it should be noted that our bodies digest food differently at different times of the day.
Circadian rhythm is the cycle that moderates our sleep-wake pattern over 24 hours. It is the internal clock of the body that reacts to primary changes in light.(1) Along with affecting how tired and awake, we are it influences our physical, mental, and behavioral processes including digestion and eating.(2)
Also, mealtime influences circadian rhythm.(3) Researchers have found an association between circadian rhythm, mealtime, weight status, and insulin resistance, and also metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.(4,5,6,7)
Disrupting circadian rhythms can put a person at risk of metabolic diseases.
Best Times To Have Meals
Eating meals at a proper time is linked with weight loss, increased energy, and reduction in risk of chronic diseases.
Eating at the same time every day might not be possible but we can consider opting for an average time range for a particular meal.
There is no single best mealtime for everyone as to how circadian rhythms are regulated is affected by individual genetics. Some trial and error might be there to discover the best mealtime for each individual.
Best Time to Have Breakfast
Breakfast is the first meal of the day and the most important meal. It is the time you eat after fasting the whole night.
Some people prefer eating breakfast within few hours of waking while a few would wait a bit longer.
Research shows that restricting the total number of hours a day during which you eat may affect weight loss and improve metabolic health.(10)
Best Time to Have Lunch
Just like eating breakfast is important, having lunch at the proper time helps in losing weight.
Basically taking a bulk of calories in the early hours of the day benefit weight loss and metabolic health.(13)
Best Time to Have Dinner
Dinner is done best if taken early. Avoiding anything high in calories just before bedtime supports better health.
A study associated eating late at night with dyslipidemia, high-fat levels in the blood, and an increased risk factor for chronic disease. Late night dinner leads to body fat, weight gain and affects the body’s ability to digest sugar.(14,15,16)
Melatonin is a hormone that is released at night, which regulates the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle. This releases less insulin and inhibits the ability to digest glucose. Scheduling mealtime too close to when the body releases this hormone increases the risk of chronic diseases.(17)
Best Mealtime While Working Out
Meals before and after a workout depending on the type of workout.
A high-intensity cardio workout would demand more precise meal timings.
A pre-workout meal should be taken an hour or two before exercise. This helps fuel muscles. There should be enough time between meals and high-intensity workouts.
More studies and research are needed on this topic.
Mealtime varies for people. Eating the majority of calories in the earlier part of the day and limiting eating towards the evening help the body digesting food properly and efficiently. It also reduces the risk of metabolic conditions like diabetes and obesity.