If you are on a weight loss regime, you’ve probably made some changes to your diet. Perhaps you increased your fiber intake or cut back on processed sugars. But did you know that the timing of your meals matters, too? There is so much more to a dietary regime than just counting calories and avoiding carbs.
Meal frequency and eating patterns play an important role in one’s weight loss journey. We’re sure you’re just brimming with questions, so stick with us as we try to address the most important ones, including the best times to eat to lose weight. Let’s get started!
Why Timing Your Meals Matters
Our hectic day-to-day lives barely allow us to have some time to ourselves, let alone plan our mealtime schedule. Most of us are guilty of having something to eat on our feet while doing something else. But is this really how we should go about our dietary habits? The answer is plain and simple — no.
Irregular eating patterns can only hinder your weight loss progress. Those who want to shed a few pounds need structure, even when it comes to their eating habits. Yes, exercise is essential, but it’s not the only factor that’ll help you achieve a calorie deficit.
Think of food as fuel that will give you energy to get through the day. The keyword for the best eating times is “day” because nighttime is when our body rests and recovers. In the following sections, we'll explore this topic more thoroughly through three essential meals.
You’ve probably heard of the famous old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In the morning, our bodies wake up from “fasting,” and our first meal after that break is crucial. Experts claim you should aim for a 12-hour gap between dinner and breakfast to experience all the benefits, such as a healthier gut, reduced inflammation, and lowered stress levels. Most importantly, your day's first meal should be packed with nutrients.
Now, you might be wondering: What about intermittent fasting? As we mentioned, our bodies go through a fast while we sleep anyway. The biggest difference is that with a 16/8 intermittent fasting regime, you’ll typically stop eating at 6 p.m. and have your first meal at noon.
If you exercise in the morning, have breakfast at least one hour prior. That’s the best time to eat before workout since you’ll need all the energy you can get.
Our favorite breakfasts include foods packed with a wide range of nutrients. Good old oatmeal will do the trick if you have a sweet tooth. This filling whole grain is high in soluble fiber and has a low glycemic index. We know it can taste a little plain, but you can always add dried fruits, fresh berries, peanut butter, honey, and a pinch of cinnamon and turn it into a rhapsody of flavors.
Those who prefer savory food should go with the traditional avocado toast. It’s been everyone’s favorite for years, and you can adjust the recipe however you like by adding eggs, cottage cheese, sesame seeds, chili flakes — you name it.
Research indicates that the time you eat lunch won’t have a massive impact on your weight loss, but do try to incorporate some food in the two-hour window after your session, as that’s the best time to eat after workout. This way, you can help your muscles recover quickly.
Everyone seems to agree that lunch should be the biggest meal of your day. Again, remember our fuel theory — it makes perfect sense to load our bodies up with calories and nutrients during peak times when we’ll be doing most of the work. Studies indicate that lunchtime should be between 12 a.m. and 2 p.m. for optimal results.
A Mediterranean diet is a great way to incorporate all the necessary nutrients. Not only is it healthy, but it’s also pretty easy to follow. If you want something hearty, try lentil soup. These legumes are an excellent source of protein. Those who crave meat can go for turkey meatballs, add quinoa as a side, and make their own tzatziki. Yum!
Contrary to popular practices, dinner should be your lightest meal of the day, so step away from that quattro formaggi pizza. Health professionals also suggest eating dinner at least 2–3 hours before bed. The body will then have enough time to digest food, and you’ll have a restful sleep. Moreover, this schedule may positively impact the regulation of hormones that affect appetite, cravings, and blood sugar.
Try to make a 12-hour break between dinner and your next meal. We know that late snacks taste the best, but try to avoid munching on your favorite candy bar at midnight. Let your body do its job so you can reap the benefits later.
When it comes to dinner — the lighter it is, the better. For instance, try stir-frying your favorite veggies, then add a protein like chicken or tofu, pour some soy sauce and sesame oil, and voila! It doesn't get simpler than that.
Now that you know the secret behind the best times to eat to lose weight, it’s time to take the reins and take charge of your weight-loss adventure. What you eat and how you eat will impact the whole process. Therefore, try to have all your meals earlier and allow at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Your body is your biggest ally, so trust it to do the job it was designed to do. Combine all that with a workout regime suited to your needs, and you’ll be hitting your goals in no time!