When you eat is as important as what you eat. Here’s why you should mind the clock!
Your grandma told you so, and now researchers say she was right. Eat on time. All the diets in the world won’t help if you don’t time your meals. Dieticians across the world agree that timing is possibly the most underrated fitness strategy to maximise fat burn and stay healthy.
A recent study conducted in Spain concluded that the time of the day you eat large meals is a big factor in how many kilos you shed. In the research, conducted over 20 weeks, researchers monitored 420 overweight participants, by splitting them into two groups: early-eaters and lateeaters. After keeping all factors same, the groups were evaluated based on their day’s biggest meal: lunch. Those who ate their lunch later in the day dropped the kilos at a slower rate than those who ate earlier in the day.
Breakfast like a king
Health experts recommend digging into your breakfast within an hour of waking up. Dietician Mehar Panjwani reiterates the importance of starting the day with a hearty breakfast, saying this will also keep your stress hormones in check. “Your body’s metabolic needs differ at different times of the day. Polishing off the day’s biggest meal earlier, increases the chances of burning off calories rather than letting them translate into extra kilos through the day,” she says. Besides, she adds, a good breakfast calms down your stress hormone — cortisol — which is at its peak when you wake up.
Stick to a schedule
Dr Jagmeet Madan, nutritionist and President, Indian Dietetic Association (Mumbai Chapter), says consistently eating on time helps the body utilise nutrients better. “When you spread your intake of nutrients throughout the day, you can maintain your energy levels and avoid hunger pangs.”
Panjwani says breaking up your meals into six to eight parts, instead of three, works better as it boosts your Basal Metabolic Rate (the energy your body expends while at rest). “Irregular meals, on the other hand, causes a spike in BMR, leading to weight gain and obesity, making you more prone to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and blood pressure issues,” says Panjwani. Also, including protein in your meals earlier, helps control your hunger pangs the rest of the day.
Fruits are not desserts
Munching on a fruit after a meal is a common practice, but it doesn’t bode well for your body. When fruits get mixed up with other foods and have to wait to get processed, they rot and ferment in the gut. This often causes indigestion, bloating and heartburn.
Madan recommends eating fruits early in the morning, on an empty stomach. “In the night, as you sleep, your body enters the fasting mode, putting it into an acidic state. Fruits, being alkaline, work best in the morning. Intake of fruits prior to a meal also create a better gut environment for digestion. If you must eat fruits later, it’s always better to have them in between meals or before them, else their nutrients get lost with other foods.” As fruits contain energy-rich simple sugars, it’s best to avoid them at night as they’ll keep you awake.
Your system needs rest
As the day ends, your body is also winding down and thus, finds it hard to break down the calories. The golden rule for dinner is to have it three hours before bedtime. The closer your meal is to your bedtime, the more your quality of sleep suffers. It also prevents the release of melatonin (which maintains the body’s circadian rhythm) and growth hormones.
Madan says, “When you stuff yourself in the latter half of the day, you push too many nutrients into your body — mostly carbs — raising your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Eating late also impedes the body’s hormonal secretions, which in turn favours conversion of sugar into fat, predisposing you to diabetes and other health issues over time.”
Panjwani says, “Our bodies have an innate timing system called the Circadian Rhythm. It regulates the metabolism and chemical and hormonal production telling us when we are supposed to wake up, sleep, etc. This internal clock plays a big role in our weight loss or gain. That’s why eating late at night triggers weight gain,” she says. Those suffering from night eating syndrome (a disorder that causes people to eat excessively just before bedtime), consume around 25-50 per cent of their daily calorie intake at this time, she adds. “Such eaters suffer from depression, low selfesteem and obesity,” she adds.
Your food time-table
Morning: Within 10 minutes of waking up, have two glasses of lukewarm water. For breakfast around 15-30 minutes later, have large portions of fresh fruits along with complex carbs such as multigrain bread or oats.
Mid-morning: Two hours later, have a glass of lemon juice, coconut water, fruit or vegetable juice.
Lunch: Two-three hours later, have large portions of salad, a small portion of brown rice or a couple of rotis, with little sabzi, dal and some protein (cereals, pulses or lean meat).
Evening snack: Two-three hours later, snack on green tea and roasted khakra, idli or dosa
Dinner: Two-three hours later, have a soup, salad, some complex carbs and protein.