Source: NBC News.com
When it comes to eating, aligning your meals with your natural circadian rhythm — the highly elaborate physiological system that coordinates your sleep-wake cycle and all the hormones and metabolic processes tied to that — may just help you function optimally and lead to many health improvements.
The evidence suggests that our bodies may do best when we eat more in the morning than at night, a pattern that’s vastly different from how most Americans eat. Timing our meals this way may lead to better body weight, hormone regulation, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, sleep patterns and other metabolic improvements.
Certainly, it doesn’t appear that our bodies are designed to function at their best for the around-the-clock food culture we’re living in. It’s good practice to give your body a chance to digest before bedtime by finishing your last meal or snack a few hours before you turn in.
In one study that allowed participants the same number of daily calories, but compared the impact of front-loading 50 percent of those calories at breakfast versus the same number at dinner, those in the breakfast group experienced more than twice the amount of weight loss compared to the bigger dinner eaters, plus improvements in the levels of their triglyceride, cholesterol and insulin levels.
It’s hard to know whether the results would hold up over the long haul or with more diverse populations such as senior-aged people. And our work schedules and family obligations may make it difficult to get your biggest meal in the morning and cut off eating in the evening hours.
It’s interesting to consider how our typical eating patterns — light on breakfast (if eaten at all) with the biggest meal in the evening, coupled with our fast-paced lives (working and commuting long hours leading to late night meals and snacking) may lead to poorer health and weight outcomes. I’ve also seen a pattern of ultra-light morning and mid-day meals lead to insatiable hunger and cravings, and over-snacking on unhealthy fare, which causes trouble on its own.
So make sure you have a satisfying and balanced breakfast that provides sufficient protein (starting at 20 g), quality carbohydrates from fruit, beans, and/or whole grains and plant-based fats (such as seeds, nuts, or avocados). And eating more in the morning and at lunch means you have a better chance of using that fuel as energy compared to eating the bulk of your food at night.
When practical, keep dinner light and lean (ideas include grilled chicken or fish and a variety of veggies) and limit snacking after that.