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It's Not Just What You Eat That's Important, It's When — Here's Why

Wondering if meal timing matters? It does. Here’s the inside scoop why you’ll want to pay attention to this factor.

When it comes to setting up a healthy eating program, the first and most important step is always going to be figuring out your target calorie intake. Your calorie intake determines whether you gain or lose weight, so without getting that right, you’ll be hard-pressed to reach your goals.

After figuring that out, next, you need to consider your macro split. How many carbs will you eat? What about grams of proteins and fats? This all needs to be factored in.

Once you have that lined up, you might think you’re all finished and ready to go.

You aren’t.

Meal timing is another thing that should be considered. While you may still see some results without considering when your food is being eaten, for maximum results, it needs to be planned as well.

Here’s what you need to know.

Energy Requirements

The first thing you need to think about is your overall energy requirements. Let’s say you are doing an afternoon workout session. It would make no sense to eat all of your carbohydrates right before bed as you’re about to go to sleep and just don’t need that energy.

Instead, you want to place the bulk of your carbohydrates in the few hours prior to your workout session. This way, your body can use them as fuel to complete that intense exercise session.

Likewise, eating a big meal in general before bed is not usually a wise plan. While you don’t need to starve before bed as the notion that what you eat before bed automatically converts to body fat is wrong, eating too much in the late night hours can cause you to lay awake at night tossing and turning due to indigestion.

Most people will see best results eating more earlier in the day and tapering off their intake as the evening progresses on. The only exception to this may be those who perform late night workouts.

Insulin Sensitivity

Another thing that you want to think about is diurnal insulin sensitivity. It’s been noted that most people will have greater overall insulin sensitivity in the earlier part of the day and less insulin sensitivity later on as the day progresses onward, so this also presents a case for eating more carbohydrates in the first portion of the day.

The more insulin sensitive you are, the better your body will be able to handle the carbohydrates you are eating and as such, the less likely it is that you gain body fat.

Those who are also trying to avoid suffering from diabetes are best served eating carbohydrates when their insulin sensitivity is at its highest point.

Exercise is the other thing that boosts insulin sensitivity, which again goes hand in hand with the above point.

Hunger Considerations

Finally, also do consider your own natural hunger levels. One of the biggest determinants of results is simply sticking with your diet plan. If you are always hungry at a certain period of the day but not at another, it only makes sense to schedule more food for that time if it means you stick with your total calorie recommendation better.

Otherwise, you may eat more calories at one point during the day and still proceed to eat more later on, thus totally derailing your plan altogether.

So don’t overlook when you are placing your meals. It’s the fine tuning element of diet planning that can make a difference.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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