Meal Timing: a contributing factor in obesity epidemic.
Eat less, exercise
more. Now there is new evidence to support adding another "must" to the
weight-loss mantra: eat at the right time of day.
A Northwestern University study has found that eating at irregular times -- the
equivalent of the middle of the night for humans, when the body wants to
sleep -- influences
weight gain. The
regulation of energy by the body's circadian rhythms may play a significant
role. The study is the first causal evidence linking meal timing and increased
Simply modifying the time of feeding alone can greatly affect
body weight, the researchers
found. Mice that were fed a
high-fat diet during normal sleeping hours gained significantly more weight
(a 48 percent weight increase over their baseline) than mice eating the same
type and amount of food during naturally wakeful hours (a 20 percent increase
over their baseline). There was no statistical difference between the two groups
regarding caloric intake or the
amount of activity.
Our circadian clock, or biological timing system, governs our daily cycles of
feeding, activity and sleep, with respect to external dark and light cycles.
Recent studies have found the body's internal clock also regulates energy use,
suggesting the timing of meals may matter in the balance between caloric intake
When it comes to eating late at night and the potential for weight gain,
there are several considerations:
Portion sizes waiting to eat could lead to consuming larger portion
Quality of food after a long day of work or school, a few slices of
pizza or a fast burger may seem easier than steamed vegetables and broiled
snacking" evenings spent studying, out on the town, or watching TV may
lead to excess calories from fast, sugary, on-the-go options.
Health concerns consistent periods of going without food followed by a
large meal can negatively impact the interaction between blood sugar and
insulin and make you more vulnerable to
Type 2 diabetes.
So, to settle the debate, late-night calories won't change your
magically count more than calories eaten during the day. However, limiting
late-night meals and snacks
may be an effective
strategy for some because it helps them to control their overall calorie intake.
Some people find that if they set a time that they can't eat past, it helps
minimize or eliminate the possibility of munching on a lot of high calorie
foods. Another useful tip may to be to eat 4 or 5 smaller meals and snacks
spread evenly throughout the day so you don't become overly hungry at any point.
Following these tips can keep your
consistent for work and play and can provide some long-term benefits to help you
reduce your chances for diabetes or other health issues.
When is the best time to eat?
Some experts say the best time to
eat food is when we feel hungry as this is the natural way our body is telling
us we require
nutrients or energy. The problem is some people always feel hungry and
nibbling on high-energy foods.
The body's internal clock regulates energy use, suggesting
the timing of meals may matter in the balance between caloric intake and
However, the best time to
consume energy is when the body is at its most active, a time when the
metabolism is elevated or when there is a need for extra
Perhaps the first instance should be in the morning, starting with a good
Remember while asleep the body has had no nutritional supply for up to ten hours
so cells are ready to effectively use up the energy from food. Also, the body
needs its supply of essential nutrients in the morning, especially
protein, because excess
or circulating proteins have been used up to help recover
nails or to
create millions of antibodies to defend against bacteria which may have entered
the body during sleep. This means extra energy will be used to help replace the
protein lost. Reduce your calorie intake as the day passes by. Better still
divide your daily calorie intake into 5 meals a day- breakfast, snack, lunch,
snack, dinner (after every 3 hrs). Try avoid eating big meal after 9 pm.
Another good time to eat is
after exercise. Have a big meal about 30-45 minutes after a
session. During this time enzymes responsible for energy production are most
active and energy-storing hormones within the blood are suppressed. This means
there will be less chance energy will be stored as fat.
Carbohydrates will be
immediately taken up to replenish the low glycogen stores caused through
protein will be needed to aid recovery and growth of new calorie-burning
muscle tissue and most of the fat from the meal will be needed to fuel many of
these reactions. After a good workout most meals are likely to be utilized
completely for recovery.