A balanced and nutritious diet in combination of exercise or light physical activity is surely the key to healthy life. But come to think of it, is that all it takes to be perfectly healthy? Think again. There is a factor as important, that you may have been ruling out unknowingly. We’re talking about meal timings. Remember how in school you had a fixed lunch breakand each day the bell would ring at the same time? Turns out that this is the kind of discipline your body asks for, (in addition to good food of course) to be healthy. The time at which you take your meals, the intervals at which you take your meals are a significant part of your diet and cannot be ruled out.
Why are Meal Timings Important
Here’s how the time at which you grab your meals can affect your body:
1. Body’s Cycle
On importance on meal timings, Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Health Practitioner Shilpa Arora ND says, “ Our body expects that we respect it in every way possible. Right nutrients, disciplined sleep cycle, excreting pattern are all forces that are in our control and we must make sure we tend to it earnestly. It is through all of these habits that the body gets used to a cyclic rhythm. Hence it is very important to be consistent and disciplined with the time at which you take your meals.”
The time at which you have your food can determine the pace of your metabolism too. Bangalore based Nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood also says , “When you wake up in the in morning our metabolic rate is the highest, and if you are not giving adequate fuel to your body you won’t be able to sustain your metabolic rate. Hence meal timings are important to regulate your metabolic rate. As the day progresses, your metabolism slows down. Hence it is important to make the most of your metabolism by having early dinner. “
As the day progresses, your metabolism slows down
There is a lot that goes into your body once you ingest your food. Detoxification activity by the liver is one of the crucial ones. Dr. Anju explains how your meal timings can impact this activity. “During the mid night time, just when you are about to sleep or have slept, your liver carries out the detoxification activity. If you are not adhering to meal time, let’s say you are eating around 10 or 12 so somewhere you are putting an essential function of your body at a problematic position. One of the major functioning which your liver is doing, is generally done when your body is in the state of rest, when you are sleeping. So that will get impacted. Which is why meal timings are definitely important.”
What is the ideal gap in between your breakfast, lunch and dinner?
According to Shilpa, “The ideal gap between meals should not exceed 4 hours. This creates acidity in the body. Fruits or light healthy snacks should be consumed in between the meals. The digestive power is strongest from 12 noon to 2pm. A highly nutritious meal at this hour would be absorbed the best and benefit the body. As the day goes along the digestive power weakens, so meals should be lighter, else ama or toxins from undigested foods gets accumulated giving rise to a bevy of health problems.”
Dr. Anju Sood says, “according to me there are three important meals which a person should be having. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. In between these three, one should accommodate healthy snacks. One should have at least two healthy in-between snacks everyday”
She adds, “Breakfast still has to be heaviest meal, the gap between your breakfast and lunch can variate between 4-5 hours. The reason why there needs to be a 4-5 hours between your two major meals because you must make window to incorporate the snack meal in between. So if you have had your breakfast at 9 am in the morning, you can have your snack around 11 and proceed for lunch at 1pm. Between lunch and dinner too, one must ensure a gap of four to five hours, even if you are having a late lunch, as one has to make room for a healthy evening snack too.”
What is the best time to have breakfast, lunch and dinner ?
Wondering what is the best time after all to have all your meals. That depends on when you start your day and end it. The body’s has a clock of its own and functions accordingly. “Ideally breakfast should be eaten within an hour of waking up. This helps kicking starting the metabolism”, notes Shilpa.
Dr. Anju explains, “ If a person is waking up by 8, I would say latest till 10:30 he should be done with his breakfast and by 3:30 his lunch, so that there should not be a greater impact on his dinner. Dinner should be early. That is between 7:30 and 8 one should ideally have their dinner. There should be a minimum of 2 hours window before your dinner and bedtime too, otherwise you can have a disturbed sleep for various reasons such as indigestion and sugar spike.”
Never thought the time at which you grabbed your lunch mattered as much, did you? Why would it. It was healthy salad after all. Turns out, ‘when’ you eat is as important as ‘what’ you eat.