Food is important. Our bodies need it to survive. Without food we don’t get nutrients and energy to do all the things we need to do in a day. So you know that it is important to eat, but does it matter what time you eat? Research suggests that when you eat may actually help your body to be more efficient. That means that if you are trying to lose weight, it might pay to not only think about what you eat, but when you eat too.
The Food Clock.
Our bodies have natural rhythms throughout the day that are typically governed by the sun. When we wake up and get moving, as the sun gets hotter, as the day gets cooler and as we wind down to go to sleep. Circadian rhythms mean that our bodies take cues from the natural light around us and get us ready for sleep at night. That’s why artificial light can really mess around with our being in tune with when we need to go to bed. Similarly, our gut runs on a daily rhythm as well. This means that the timing of when we eat can really have a significant impact on how well our food is digested and processed.
Eat During The Day.
The research conducted by Dr. Neufeld-Cohen involving mice and timing of food showed that food was processed at different rates throughout the day. In particular the enzyme for converting glucose into usable fuel was produced highest when the animals were asleep. This added extra evidence to an earlier study where mice had significantly lower levels of triglycerides in the liver if they only ate during the day. It seems that if you eat during the day and sleep during the night, you will have a better functioning body. Missing out on sleep, and the natural fasting that you do when you are asleep, means that your levels of hormones that tell you you’re hungry increase and the hormones that blunt your feeling of hunger drop.
Sleep At Night.
These studies are making it evident that our bodies need time to rest. While it probably doesn’t quite matter exactly what time that sleep is, typically most people sleep at night. It is important to make your bed time and wake times regular so your body knows when it can focus on processing things and when it needs to be active. Not eating for 12hrs straight per day is what your gut needs to get into a good rhythm. So if you have dinner at 7pm, don’t eat again until 7am. “When you eat all the time, your insulin and glucose levels are elevated all the time,” says Ruth Patterson, a nutrition expert and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Diego.
Break the Fast.
“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper”
All this goes to show just how important breakfast is. You are literally breaking a fast, so eat up! If there is one time of that day that you are going to consume your most calories – make it breakfast. Eating breakfast every single day is important for a healthy body clockwork. Having a high protein breakfast (think eggs, yoghurt, bacon) has shown to reduce levels of hunger throughout the day. Topping up your glycogen stores after your body has been busy processing at night will give you the energy you need for the day. Healthy carbs like oatmeal and wholegrain toast should be a part of your daily breakfast meal plan. If there is any meal to get excited about – get excited for breakfast!
Ditch Late Night Snacking.
If you want to lose weight, you need to ditch the late night snack. Our bodies don’t like having to deal with foods late at night – when you’re meant to be sleeping and fasting. Studies even suggest that eating late at night can have a negative effect on your health. People who restrict their food intake to the day time on average lose more body fat and see bigger falls in blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Eating dinner early appears to have a more positive effect on our ability to process foods in the gut.
Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
So it seems that eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times throughout your day can help your body to stabilise and get into healthy rhythms. By allowing your body the chance to rest and process, you will find your body is able to run more efficiently. Eating three meals a day is all you need. Snacking is actually not recommended. Eating three meals a day gives your body 3-5hrs between meals to process the food and clean your gut out. Hearing your tummy grumble is a good thing – this means your gut is moving. And you need your gut to move to have a healthy digestive system.
As always, it is recommended to consult your health practitioner if you have any medical needs that may alter when and how much you should eat throughout the day. If you don’t have any specific dietary needs, then getting your body into a good food rhythm could really see you feeling healthier.