We're living a faster-paced life than ever before, with longer hours at work and things happening quickly and continuously all around us. Juggling multiple tasks throughout the day means you're likely looking at convenience foods, getting takeout, or relying on ready-meals. But even if you prioritize meal prep to solve that problem, what happens when you're too busy to eat?
Irregular eating patterns are another problem, so finding ways to get back into a more stable diet is more important. Of course, keep in mind that it's always important to speak with your doctor about any medical conditions (like diabetes) and listen to internal hunger cues when establishing an eating pattern.
Like meal frequency, eating patterns will also change based on your health goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, you may have to structure your dietary goals around this. So, what are some of the best times to eat for weight loss? Here are some suggestions for timing your meals to encourage optimal digestion and weight loss.
Is There Scientific Evidence That Certain Times of Eating Are More Conducive to Weight Loss?
To understand meal timing, it's a good idea to move away from the idea of eating for comfort and more towards eating to fuel your body. You need fuel for most activities, right? For most people, these activities occur during the day.
It means your body typically processes food for energy during the day. At night, your body is more focused on rest and repair. This idea would suggest that your body slows down and is less efficient in processing foods at night.
One of the first studies that looked at the impact of food timing on metabolism was conducted in mice. Mice are nocturnal, which means they're active during moonlight and sleeping during daylight. The research found that mice fed with a high-fat diet during their active period gained less weight than those fed a similar high-fat diet during rest when feeding is usually reduced.
These results inspired human studies into whether food timing affects body weight, and it turns out that it matters!
When Should You Eat Breakfast?
In animals, studies have shown that the first meal of the day determines the pattern of the peripheral internal clocks. This study suggests that you may want to consider eating within the first few hours of waking to get your day off to a good start.
It also allows complete digestion and rest for a few hours before the second meal of the day. Of course, everyone is different and waking patterns vary from person to person, so it's essential to experiment for yourself.
Is It Ever Appropriate To Skip Breakfast?
Some research suggests that skipping breakfast increases postprandial responses after lunch and dinner due to impaired insulin response.
Having said that, it may make sense to skip breakfast if you're practicing Intermittent Fasting, and this time of the day is during your fasting window.
For some who follow a 16/8 fasting schedule (eating during an eight-hour window and fasting for 16 hours), the fasting period could begin after dinner between 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and not end until closer to lunch the next day.
In this instance, the benefits of skipping breakfast are similar to the benefits of fasting. Research shows that intermittent fasting can reduce overall calorie intake, promote weight loss, and improve metabolic health.
Healthy and Tasty Breakfast Ideas to Lose Weight
- A Greek yogurt bowl: Make sure it's plain, unsweetened yogurt. Eat it topped with low glycemic fruits such as blueberries, nuts, and seeds.
- Chia seed pudding: Make with kefir or greek yogurt and topped with your favorite fruit and nuts.
- Easy egg muffins: Pour eggs mixed with a splash of milk (any kind) over lightly sautéed veggies (mushrooms, onions, jalapeños, spinach) and bake in a muffin tin at 350 degrees until set (20 to 30 minutes). Top with feta.
When Should You Eat Lunch?
Studies suggest eating lunch between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. for optimal results. But of course, it’s important to remember that we’re all different, so this may not be the same for everyone.
A Spanish study experimented with the timing of lunch and weight loss to see if there was a correlation with when you eat your main meal.
Results from the study indicated that late lunch eaters (after 3 p.m.) lost less weight during the experiment than early lunch eaters (before 3 p.m.). This was despite having similar age, appetite hormones, energy intake and expenditure, sleep duration or sleep duration or macronutrients distribution.
A similar study found that eating after 4:30 p.m. decreased glucose tolerance, resting energy expenditure, and carbohydrate oxidation than eating closer to 1 p.m.
Is It Ever Appropriate To Skip Lunch?
Skipping lunch may be tempting if you are busy or distracted, but it can cause problems later in the day. Skipping lunch can deplete your body of energy, causing brain fog or drowsiness.
In addition, you may also feel overly hungry in the afternoon leading to overeating in your final meal.
Ultimately, the best approach is to listen to your internal cues to determine your hunger level and make the best decision. You could always reduce your lunch portions if you find your appetite is not as large as expected.
Healthy and Tasty Lunch Ideas to Lose Weight
- A protein box: Prep hard-boiled eggs, nuts, berries, chopped vegetables, and hummus in a bento box container. It's great for eating on the go or when time and energy are limited.
- A salmon salad: Sear a salmon filet and place it on top of a bed of greens. Add hard-boiled eggs, onions, and tomatoes. Drizzle a quick dressing with vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and lemon over the top.
- Taco salad: Chop vegetables like kale, shredded cabbage, and raw broccoli, and top with beans and protein (of your choice, seasoned with taco seasoning). Add salsa, plain greek yogurt, and guacamole.
When Should You Eat Dinner?
Ideally, your final meal of the day would be a minimum of three to four hours before you go to bed. Studies have found that having a late dinner or eating too late at night has links to an increased risk of obesity and metabolic disruptions like dyslipidemia and hyperglycemia.
A study in overweight/obese women with metabolic syndrome showed that those with higher caloric intake during dinner had more significant insulin resistance than those with a higher caloric intake during breakfast. This finding suggests that reducing intake at dinner may help reduce insulin resistance over time.
A large Japanese study also demonstrated that eating late was associated with hyperglycemia independent of BMI.
Studies also found that being awake and eating during moonlight hours caused multiple metabolic changes, including increased postprandial glucose and insulin concentrations.
Is It Ever Appropriate To Skip Dinner?
For most people with normal metabolisms, skipping dinner or eating it early in the afternoon may be beneficial. It may align better with our internal clocks, which optimize digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Due to the need for glucose stability, if you're managing chronic conditions like diabetes, this idea may be a matter to discuss with your doctor before making any changes. Again, it's also important to follow your internal hunger cues to determine when to start an overnight fast until the morning hours.
Healthy and Tasty Dinner Ideas to Lose Weight
- Consider an easy, mess-free meal by utilizing sheet pan dinners. Pick a starch, a protein, and vegetable(s). Toss all the ingredients with olive oil and bake. You may need to bake the starch for a little longer than the protein or vegetable.
- In a large cast-iron skillet or wok, stir-fry a pile of fresh veggies. Pick anything from onions, cabbage, carrots, and snap peas to zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, celery, and bok choy. Add a protein like sliced grass-fed beef, chicken, or tofu and stir-fry, then add in fresh garlic and ginger, soy sauce (or liquid aminos), and finish with a drizzle of sesame oil.
- Make your own chili with grass-fed beef, tomatoes, broth, and vegetables in a slow cooker before heading out for the day. You could also make a homemade vegetable soup (chopped vegetables, beans, broth, and seasonings) with whatever you have on hand.
Are There Good Times to Eat Snacks?
Eating stimulates hormones like insulin to help process incoming food. Meals with refined carbohydrates added sugars, and/or large portion sizes stimulate insulin the most. Still, all foods have at least a small impact. So when we are grazing throughout the day, our body is always in a "fed" state. If you allow some time between meals, you give your body rest from this cycle. It may be something to experiment with to see what works best for you.
To date, research has not sufficiently demonstrated a causal relationship between snack foods and obesity. Results have been mixed, with various and inconsistent exposures. For example, one study of normal-weight women found that those with strong urges for snack foods and low ability to control these urges gained the most weight. Another reason for the weight gain and snacking association may be increased portion sizes.
Increasing portions by half was found to increase daily energy intake by 16 percent, and doubling your portions increased energy intake by 26 percent. That said, it may be a good idea to have a small snack if several hours pass between your meals and your blood glucose levels dip.
The snack would give you the energy needed to curb your appetite and increase glucose levels to prevent overeating at the next meal.
If your snacking isn’t related to actual hunger, eating can lead to unwanted weight gain due to adding excess calories. Frequent snacking can also reduce hunger at mealtimes or cause one to skip a meal entirely, which increases the risk of losing out on essential nutrients.
A general guideline for having a snack is that it should be at least two to three hours after a meal to allow for complete digestion. Consider eating a snack with a combination of protein and/or fiber.
Some Helpful Examples
- A handful of nuts and berries
- Hummus with cucumbers or snap peas
- Tuna and avocado salad with celery.
Timing and Weight-Loss Takeaways
So, what's the perfect time to eat for weight loss? There may not be one ideal time for everyone, but there are certainly some hours that may be better than others.
Overall, the takeaway here is this: while it's highly individualized, some general guidelines suggest that eating breakfast by 9 a.m., lunch between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., and dinner at least four hours before bed can set your body up for optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients. Snacks may seem tempting, but they can lead to unnecessary calorie intake if eaten for the wrong reasons.
What is the best eating schedule? ›
The goal is to eat every 3 to 4 hours in order to keep your blood sugar consistent and for your stomach to optimally digest. Setting this schedule consistently across days can also help curb overeating which can lead to bloating or indigestion.Do food journals help with weight loss? ›
Research shows that for people interested in losing weight, keeping a journal can be a very effective tool to help change behavior. In one weight loss study of nearly 1,700 participants, those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.What time should I eat for metabolism? ›
Eat Lunch When Your Metabolism Peaks
Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day, your metabolism hits its peak, providing you with stronger digestive function, making it the best time to eat your lunch.
- 6:00 to 9:45 a.m. This is the best time for breakfast. ...
- 10 a.m. Snacktime. ...
- 1 p.m. Lunch break. ...
- 6 p.m. Dinnertime.
As a guideline, you should stop eating two to three hours before bed. This will give your body enough time to digest your food, lowering your chances of acid reflux and digestive issues keeping you up.What do you write in a diet journal? ›
- Food. Write down the specific foods you eat throughout the day. ...
- Portion size. Include specific amounts of the food you eat. ...
- Time. Note the time of day you eat. ...
- Place. Another factor that helps identify your patterns is tracking where you eat. ...
- Hunger level. ...
If you're really committed to losing weight, weighing yourself every day can be helpful. Research shows that people who weigh themselves every day have even more success with weight loss than those who weigh in once a week.
- Sugary Foods. Most people already think of many of the foods in this category as unhealthy treats. ...
- Bread, Grains, and Pasta. ...
- Starchy Vegetables. ...
- Beans and Legumes. ...
- Fat-Free Salad Dressings. ...
- Beer. ...
Using an intuitive eating journal is a great idea when you're starting to implement gentle nutrition and for understanding emotional eating.What are the disadvantages of a food diary? ›
Research has shown shame, judgment, or obsession associated with food journaling. Some people reported they felt they should avoid social events because of the unknown ingredients they would not be able to track.
What time of day is metabolism highest? ›
No matter whether we stay up all night or fall asleep at the dinner table, our bodies have an internal schedule that says to burn the most calories in the late afternoon and early evening and the least in the early morning.What time is my metabolism the fastest? ›
Then, between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., our digestive functions get stronger and metabolism reaches its peak. Like nature, when the sun is highest in the sky, our body temperature is at its highest point of the day. This is when your body digests foods and burns fuel most efficiently.What time of day is my metabolism fastest? ›
We burn most calories in the late afternoon and early evening and the least in the very early morning. Most people burn about 10 per cent more calories between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Our body torches maximum calories at this time frame, regardless of what we do.What time should you stop eating to lose belly fat? ›
There's no set time you should stop eating to lose belly fat, but, as a guideline, you should avoid eating two to three hours before bed to stop it from disrupting your sleep and body clocks, which can cause belly fat gain. Studies show early dinners can help people lose weight.What time should I stop eating at night to lose weight? ›
Some experts advise finishing food consumption in the early evening, as metabolism slows down after this time. However, this is not feasible for everyone. Some people may not be able to consume their evening meal until 7 p.m. or later. Even so, it is best to avoid food for 2–3 hours before bed.How many hours between meals to lose weight? ›
Try Getting at Least 12 Hours of Fasting a Day
According to Thunder, if you want to lose weight, it's important to get in at least 12 hours of fasting every day. If you're able to get 14 hours or more, even better. To maximize your benefits, that fasted time needs to be sustained and continuous.
The study found that people who stopped eating at 3pm lost almost a stone over 14 weeks, while the control group lost only about nine pounds. The researchers found that combining a diet with the time restriction equates to losing around an extra five pounds.Why should you stop eating after 7pm? ›
Experts say that having a late-night meal keeps the body on 'high alert' at a time where it should be winding down, which can have dangerous implications for our health. Researchers have now said that we should never eat within two hours of our bedtime, and ideally, nothing after 7pm.How to speed up metabolism? ›
- Eat plenty of protein at every meal. Eating food can temporarily increase your metabolism for a few hours. ...
- Drink more water. ...
- Do a high intensity workout. ...
- Lift heavy things. ...
- Stand up more. ...
- Drink green tea or oolong tea. ...
- Eat spicy foods. ...
- Get a good night's sleep.
One of the greatest things about bullet journaling is that you can start in whatever month you're in. You don't need to wait until January or “Back to School” — just start where you are. The Monthly Log is a one or two-page spread that helps you organize your month.
Where do I start with bullet journal? ›
All you really need to get started is a pen and a notebook, everything else is just extra. Create an Index. An Index is simply a place where you can keep track of all of the pages you include in your bullet journal, similar to a table of contents. To create a basic index, all you need to do is create two columns.Is eating 3 times a day best? ›
"Across all peer-reviewed research and health practices, three meals a day is a general recommendation to encourage consistent, adequate energy intake," Miluk said.Is eating 2 meals a day OK? ›
So, the science seems to say the healthiest way to eat throughout the day is to have two or three meals, with a long fasting window overnight, to not eat too early or too late in the day, and to consume more calories earlier on in the day.Does eating every 2 hours help? ›
"For weight management, it is important to keep the metabolism in equilibrium. Eating every 2-3 hours maintains body processes and metabolism remains intact," she says. This kind of eating pattern, she says, can also be beneficial for people on a weight loss plan or those with diabetes.How often should you eat each day? ›
The Theory: Nutrition experts tend to recommend eating 3 balanced meals (350 to 600 calories each) and 1 to 3 snacks per day (between 150 and 200 calories each). The calories for each meal and snack depend on a variety of factors including, height, weight, age, gender and activity level.