When discussions about diet and nutrition come up, there is hardly any suggestions about the best time to eat. The focus is almost always on increasing your protein intake, cutting down calories, eating more fruits and so on.
Experts are now beginning to shed more light on the importance of being intentional about when you eat. As much as your body needs to eat healthy meals daily, try to eat when your body needs it the most. But how do you know the right time to eat.
For bodybuilders, consuming protein at strategic times may help to boost muscle repair and growth. For people looking to lose weight, reducing calorie intake is not enough because eating at the wrong time can be counterproductive and yield poor results.
Chronobiologist Emily Manoogian suggests that tweaking a specific factor in our eating habits – when we eat- can make the difference in how much improvement we notice in our lives as much as adjusting our diets. She says “Much the same way that you should eat a healthy meal every day, you should also eat it when your body expects it.”
Our bodies have evolved to run on a 24-hour clock, and this includes cell activity. This internal clock controls when you sleep and when you are awake and active.
“Pretty much anything that you would get tested for at the doctor’s office has a circadian rhythm. For instance, your heart rate and blood pressure naturally rise in the afternoon and are lowest while you sleep.” Says Manoogian.
This rhythm influences our digestive system and gets it ready to process foods and absorb nutrients.
Today's world may be influencing our body clock negatively because there is light and food at all times of the day. The early man knew to sleep at nighttime and hunt or engage in other activities during the day. But with industrialisation and technological advancement, the natural clock is being disrupted. People now work through the night when they should be sleeping and eat when their bodies do not need the fuel.
“You need to keep your body on its schedule so it can prepare itself for what it needs to do. This means using those external cues to support your biological clock: tell it when its morning and when it should be awake, and decrease simulation at night so it can get a proper rest”
One of the best ways to help your body to get the most out of nutritious diets is by eating at specific times of the day. This eating schedule is similar to intermittent fasting. Create a 10 to 12-hour daily window to eat. This way, you ensure that you are optimising what you eat by eating when you are most active, and you can burn calories. Try to eat your last meal earlier than you usually would – say a few hours before bedtime.
Eating at the "right time" does not mean that you cannot indulge in your cravings from time to time; you need to ensure that you do so during the 10 to 12-hour window.