Meal Timing

Health & Wellness

Tips for Living Healthy in South Arkansas

Jason Rogers
Manager, JRMC Wellness Centers

We’ve spoken before about “calories in versus calories out”. If we eat more calories than we expend through metabolism and physical activity, the ONLY thing we can expect is weight gain. But research also tells us that WHEN we eat is very important as well.

All around the world, studies are being done to determine the effects of what time of the day is best to eat our largest daily meal. The one common conclusion in all of these studies is that eating your largest meal in the evening is NOT the way to go.

The human body has what is called a circadian rhythm. This is the 24-hour cycle of wake and sleep, and high and low energy levels. The body’s ability to digest meals is best at peak energy times, which typically occur between noon and 3:00 p.m. In support of this fact, research indicates that our largest meal of the day should be before 3:00 p.m. as well.

An Israeli study showed that individuals who ate their largest meal of the day at breakfast were more likely to lose weight and reduce their waistline than those who ate a large evening meal. Additionally, these individuals had significantly lower levels of insulin, blood sugar, and triglycerides throughout the day, which results in a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. A 20-week study in Spain concluded that those individuals who ate their largest meal of the day after 3:00pm lost 22 percent LESS weight than the “early eaters”. The “late eaters” also showed lower insulin sensitivity, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

Research also indicates that avoiding food for a roughly 12 hours of every 24 hour period is associated with less weight gain over time and better control of blood sugar levels. This lends itself to the recommendation of cutting out “midnight snacking”. For those of us who don’t do shift work, not eating between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. is of great benefit. It is this sleep time when the body repairs tissue and should not be burdened with digestion.

Research on maintaining weight loss shows much the same thing. Dietary restriction can result in weight loss. However, it can also result in increased hunger and cravings because of hormone disruption. After weight loss, it seems best to eat a breakfast high in carbohydrates and protein to maintain weight loss. Meal satisfaction levels (called satiety) are higher and hunger and craving scores are significantly lower in individuals who eat a larger breakfast, high in carbohydrates and protein.

So, what are our simple, actionable recommendations today? Well, if you hit RPM at the Wellness Center this morning, you can reward yourself with a good, whole food breakfast. If you’re going to get in a BodyPump class this evening eat a sizable lunch so that you can carry higher energy levels through class time. Try to avoid anything after 8:00 p.m. … then we can do it all again tomorrow. The scale and your waistline with show the benefits of your efforts!

The JRMC Wellness Centers, located in Pine Bluff and White Hall, offer a variety of fitness options for all ages and interests. Free weights, machines, cardio equipment, personal trainers and a full schedule of Les Mills classes are available at both facilities. For more information call the Pine Bluff (541-7890) or White Hall (850-8000) facility.


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