When we think about portion size and when the best time to eat is, firstly we need to think about why we are eating. The basic reason being we eat is to stay alive, however everyone has different requirements from their food, including, eating to lose weight, increasing muscle mass, gain weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle or simply eating for pleasure. As we all have different requirements from our food, it stands to reason that portion sizes and meal timings are going to be different for everyone.
However, when we are looking specifically at weight loss, the timings of meals can directly affect the following:
- Sleep cycle
- Metabolic regulation
- Energy output
- Fat loss
Here are some things to consider when timing your daily meals and portion sizes:
Eating a healthy breakfast
Studies have shown that people who ate a healthy, substantial breakfast within 1 hour of waking up ate fewer calories throughout the day. This could be linked to less impulsive smacking, as after eating breakfast the person felt full for longer. Eating a healthy breakfast is also a good way to improve your nutritional food intake.
Eat the majority of your carbs around exercise
Carbohydrates act as a fuel source for your body. As such, the best time to consume the majority of your carbs is around a workout, when the muscles uses the carbohydrate for energy and recovery. This ensures carbs are utilised by the body, instead of being turned into fat. The rest of your meals should be high in protein, vegetables and healthy fats, with a small portion of carbohydrate if required.
Smaller serve at dinner
Some research suggests, that making breakfast or lunch the biggest meals of the day can help with fat loss and improve your metabolism. This just makes sense to me, because during the day our bodies are using energy. We might do a workout, run around after the kids, have a hard day at work or do the gardening, all of which takes energy. Food provides us with this energy. So it makes sense to eat the majority of our food while we are busy and lessen our intake when we start to unwind at the end of the day. Why eat a massive meal and then go to sleep?
I have been having a slightly larger lunch for the past few weeks. Generally a serve of slow cooked beef and vegetables, followed by high protein Greek yoghurt and berries. This keeps me feeling full and I am finding I am no longer getting tired around 3pm like I used it. Also, I hate going to bed on a full stomach. For me, there is nothing worse than going out for dinner, over-indulging, then going home to bed. I find it keeps me awake for longer and generally gives me a stomach ache.
Fasting for a period over night may also have some weight lose benefits. People who stopped eating all together from around 8pm until 7am, seemed to show a lower calorie intake per day. This is could be attributed to the fact that we tend to snack at night on unhealthy options, so by not eating after dinner, the calorie intake is significantly less.
A popular fasting method is 16:8, where you fast for 16hrs, the bulk of which is done while sleeping and then consume all of your calories in the remaining 8 hours. Whilst this method may have some positive results in relation to weight loss, it can be difficult to maintain long term. Not everyone is on your schedule and this can make social eating and drinking difficult.
For myself, I know that after I finish dinner the healthy eating stops. I try to limit myself to a cup of tea and a piece of dark chocolate. But I am also aware that if I’m going to indulge in lollies, chips, chocolate or ice cream, its generally after dinner. So not eating after I finish my dinner definitely helps to lower my overall calorie intake.
One of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy weight is to develop a schedule that works for your lifestyle. Your body doesn’t like surprises, it functions best when it knows when its next meal is coming, when exercise is being undertaken and when sleep is forthcoming. A schedule also helps you to be prepared and have meals and snacks for the day planned. If you know your body needs to eat 4 times while you are at work, pack 4 healthy meals so you are ready for that.
Its important to remember that everyone is different and somethings may not work for you and your schedule. There may be some trial and error involved in finding the right eating pattern to suit your lifestyle. Just remember that whatever you implement, it needs to be sustainable. There is no point fasting for 16 hours a day if you cannot sustain this long term.
My eating schedule looks like this:
- 0600 Breakfast
- 0830 Weights workout (BCAA’s and Carnitine)
- 1000 Protein shake and nuts
- 1300 Lunch
- 1600 Coffee, apple and banana
- 1830 Dinner
- 2000 Tea and one piece dark choc