Eating earlier in the day can offer a range of potential benefits for your health, well-being, and daily routine. The timing of your meals plays a crucial role in how your body functions, and making an effort to prioritize breakfast and lunch can lead to various positive outcomes. This approach is rooted in the idea that our bodies are naturally programmed to be more metabolically active and responsive to nutrition during the daytime.
Many people practice time restricted eating or intermittent fasting. A common theme we see when people do this, is skipping breakfast (and sometimes lunch). While this may work for some, there may be a better way to time your meals throughout the day.
Consider these factors when deciding the times in which you eat your first meal of the day:
- Circadian Rhythm: The body’s natural circadian rhythm plays a role in metabolic changes throughout the day. Metabolism tends to be more active during the morning and early afternoon, and it gradually decreases as the day progresses. This circadian pattern is influenced by factors like body temperature, hormone levels, and the sleep-wake cycle.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes throughout the day can influence metabolism. For example, insulin sensitivity tends to be higher earlier in the day and decreases in the evening, which can impact how efficiently the body processes and stores nutrients from food.
- Improved metabolism: Your body’s metabolism tends to be more active earlier in the day. Eating breakfast and having a substantial meal at lunch can help kickstart your metabolism and provide the energy you need for daily activities.
- Better nutrient absorption: Nutrient absorption may be more efficient earlier in the day when your digestive system is more active. This can ensure that you get the most benefit from the nutrients in your food.
- Stable blood sugar levels: An emphasis on earlier meals can help maintain stable blood sugar levels. This can reduce the risk of energy crashes, mood swings, and cravings for excessive snacks.
- Weight management: Eating earlier in the day may help with weight management. It can reduce the chances of overeating in the evening, which is often associated with weight gain. A well-balanced breakfast and lunch can help you feel satisfied and prevent excessive snacking later in the day.
- Physical Activity: Physical activity and movement can increase metabolic rate. Many people are more active during the daytime, which can contribute to higher energy expenditure and more efficient digestion compared to the evening when physical activity tends to decrease.
- Meal Size and Composition: The size and composition of meals can affect digestion and metabolism. Large or heavy meals, when consumed close to bedtime, may make it seem like digestion is slower in the evening. When you start your day with a protein-rich meal, you are less likely to experience mid-morning hunger, reducing the urge to snack on less nutritious foods between meals. This can lead to better appetite control throughout the day.
- Sleep and Rest: During the night, while you sleep, your body focuses on rest, repair, and maintenance rather than active digestion and metabolism. This can create the impression that metabolic processes slow down during the nighttime hours.
- Better digestion: Giving your body ample time to digest food before bedtime can promote better digestion and reduce the risk of indigestion or acid reflux at night. Consuming heavy or rich meals in the evening can disrupt your sleep because your body needs to work on digestion. Eating earlier in the day can lead to more restful and uninterrupted sleep.
It’s important to keep in mind that ‘eating early’ doesn’t require you to eat immediately after waking. Try to have your first meal of the day by 10am. It is also optimal to wait at least 1 hour after waking before eating your first meal. Focus on calorie dense foods with good fats and protein to help alleviate hunger, cravings and excess snacking in the evening.
We’re all on our own health journey. Find the foods and timing that work best for you. If you need guidance, support or further services; please reach out to find out how we can help you!
Written and researched by Ben Spies (CFNIP), Health and Wellness Coach at Colorado Center for Functional Medicine