What Time Should I Eat


What Time Should I Eat? Just like our bodies have an internal clock to tell us when it’s time to sleep and wake up — our metabolism is regulated by a biological clock. This means that our metabolism (the rate of how fast your body uses calories) is not the same throughout the day. When you know what time this clock is working at its fastest you can use your diet accordingly.

The Basics of Meal Timing and Eating Habits


Meal habits and timings have been changed a lot nowadays as compared to the past. Most adults eat about 4 to 8 times a day without taking two or three proper meals. Much of our daily calories come from untimely snacks, rather than meals. This is changing the bodies of the population.

According to research, before the 1980s, adults consume 82-85% of calories from meals and the remaining calories from snacks. Nowadays, meals only make up 70-75% of our daily calories, and the remaining come from snacks. Less than 1% of adults eat or drink from 1 am to 6 am.

Based on research, the ideal timing for meals is as follows:

  • Eat a high protein and calorie-dense breakfast. The ideal time is 7 am and within 30 minutes after you wake up.
  • Eat high-calorie lunch after four hours of breakfast. The ideal time is 1 pm and should not delay 4 pm.
  • Dinner should one half as compared to lunch and ideally at 7 pm. Eat dinner before 3 hours of sleep.
  • Take snacks based on natural foods in between meals.

What Do I Need to Know About Meal Timing?

Meal timings are almost as significant to health as the meal ingredients or components. You should follow proper meal timings and also consider different approaches to have better health.

how do i create a meal schedule

Let’s discuss some scientifically proven habits and tactics of eating:

  • Take meals and snacks alternatively at specific times throughout the day to manage calories demand and hunger. The best way is to take 3 meals and 2 snacks per day.
  • Take meals and snacks during a 12-hour time period in a day. The ideal 12-hour time period is 6 am to 6 pm.
  • Take a greater number of calories during the daytime meals that include breakfast, morning snacks, and lunch. Evening snacks and dinner should have fewer calories.
  • Eat natural foods and snacks that are nutrient-dense rather than processed or packed foods that contain a considerable number of sugars and fats.
  • You can consider different approaches according to your goal, like gaining, or maintaining or losing weight. For example, intermittent fasting is a scientifically proven approach for obese, diabetics, and cardiac patients.

It helps to decrease the number of calories as well as better metabolic control. However, adding a high-calorie post-workout meal is best for people who want to gain weight.

Medical Considerations When Scheduling Your Meals

The timing of meals significantly affects circadian rhythm and metabolic changes in our bodies. The most common disorders related to unhealthy meal timings are obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Circadian Rhythm and Metabolism

The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in our brain is the main control system of the circadian rhythm. SCN also communicates with neural and humoral pathways that send feedback signals back to hormone-sensitive areas of SCN.SCN also controls gene rhythms in the tissues. This whole circadian system control metabolic processes, energy generation, and energy usage.

In normal individuals, SCN drives the timing of feeding. Irregular meal timings cause separation of feedback connections between SCN and food availability. It results in changing the metabolic processes of tissues due to several changes in gene rhythms. When the endogenous circadian system is disrupted, its clinical signs are evident in the form of failure of the physiological metabolic processes.

It may result in irregular fat distribution, increased density of blood and narrowing of vessels due to fats, increased blood glucose, and a decrease in sensitivity of tissues to insulin. All these changes predispose to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Blood Sugar Considerations

The timing of meals affects your blood sugar levels. In diabetic patients and people who have an increased risk of diabetes, meals should be spaced 4 hours apart to stabilize glucose levels in the blood. But if you feel hungry, take a snack in-between meal. A single large meal can boost blood glucose suddenly that may result in severe consequences in diabetic patients. Glucose levels fall after 2-3 hours of a meal, no matter how much big a meal you take. A single large meal is also bad for healthy individuals because it may result in a lack of energy once the glucose levels fall in the blood.

Why does meal timing matter?

We need a certain amount of energy each day, and at different times throughout the day, to thrive. This energy comes from the carbs, fats and proteins we consume. Regular meals and snacks allow for more opportunities in the day to give our body the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimally, allowing us to engage in all the things we need to do in the day. Ever feel absolutely drained by 3pm and ready to take a nap? This might be your body’s natural response to having gone multiple hours (since lunch) without a re-up of energy.

When we don’t eat enough times in the day, for example if we only eat one or two meals per day, it can be quite difficult to meet our energy and nutritional needs (e.g. protein, calcium, iron, fibre). If you have pretty reliable hunger cues, you might notice that your body tries to make up for it when you don’t eat enough in the day. For example, skipping breakfast may result in increased cravings in the afternoon and/or evening to make up for the lack of energy consumed earlier in the day. Or skipping an afternoon snack might result in being overly hungry, eating more quickly, and possibly eating past your comfortable fullness level at dinner time.

Regular meal timing also helps to promote regular digestion. Going extended periods of time without eating can increase our likelihood of eating more quickly or eating more than we may need at our next meal, which can negatively impact digestion. On the other hand, grazing continuously throughout the day prevents your body’s migrating motor complex (MMC) from firing. The MMC is an electromechanical wave of muscle contractions through your gut that acts to sweep through leftover undigested food. When we eat continuously, this “housekeeper” is unable to do its job and the build-up of residue can lead to increased bloating for some people.

The light/dark cycles of the day and our feeding/fasting times also affect our natural circadian rhythms. Consistent meal timing has been shown to promote regular circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that people with irregular eating patterns may have more difficulties processing insulin and may experience increased inflammation. There are so many articles out there promoting prolonged fasting to “clear up cellular debris”, promote insulin sensitivity and improve other metabolic markers. However, it’s important to note that we all naturally fast each night, from whenever we finish our evening snack to when we have breakfast in the morning, and this is when your body will shift gears from its fed to fasted state and will naturally experience those metabolic benefits that are talked about. The average person experiences a fast anywhere from 8-14 hours each day naturally, without needing to put a restricted time on it.

Feeding your body regularly throughout the day helps to reassure your body that you do have access to adequate food. This reassurance helps to build trust between you and your body.

The best time to eat your meals

Spoiler alert: there’s no perfect time to eat a meal. But there are some general guidelines.

The best times to eat breakfast

The saying is true — breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

It sets the stage for your daily nutrition and energy levels. If you skip your morning nosh, you’ll be hungry by lunch time. This can lead to a whole day of playing catch up to your missed meal.

PSA: Eat within the first hour of waking up to give your blood sugar a boost. It also stops you accidentally pushing forward the rest of your mealtimes by choosing a mid-morning snack instead of letting breakfast do its thing.

If you’re in too much of a hurry to cook breakfast and short on inspo, we’ve got your back.

The best times to eat lunch

Your body burns the most calories in the afternoon and evening. So, as crazy as work can get, don’t skip your lunch, even if you’re saying “oh, but that deadline” (oh, but close your laptop and chow down).

Try to eat lunch about 4 to 5 hours after breakfast.

Bonus: Eating a well-rounded lunch with plenty of fiber and protein can help you not overeat at night.

The best time to eat dinner

Aim to eat dinner about 4 to 5 hours after lunch. For example, if you eat lunch at noon, follow that up with dinner around 5.

But of course, the early bird special vibe isn’t for everyone. If you can’t eat an early dinner, be sure to have a healthy snack to keep your blood sugar levels in check.

What your eating time schedule can affect

Eating before bed is a bit controversial. But it turns out that what you eat tends to be more important than when you eat.

Best time to eat dinner for sleep

Eating late might screw with your sleep cycle. A main issue is that it may increase your risk of acid reflux. When you lie down, gravity can’t help you push food and acid down the esophagus.

This can trigger a major heartburn sesh that can keep you tossing and turning.

Avoid foods that have a bad rep for triggering acid reflux like:

  • spicy stuff
  • acidic foods
  • fried or fatty foods

P.S. You should also avoid stimulants like caffeine or processed sugar. Even a single cup of coffee could make it harder to doze off.

So what should you eat before bed? Well, the National Sleep Foundation suggests “complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal or whole-wheat toast” which are easy to digest.

We took a closer look at the fine lines around eating before bed. Going to bed hungry can also keep you from snoozing.

The best time to eat dinner for weight loss

Some research shows that late night eating can make you gain wait, it’s prob not because of the time of day. The more likely cause is that eating before bed can take you over your daily recommended calorie intake.

A 2013 study found that eating within 4 hours of sleep can lead to eating more cals the next day. It can also make you too full for breakfast the next morning, which can trigger bingeing behaviors later on in the day.

To avoid a midnight snack attack:

  • Fill up on complex carbs that make you feel fuller for longer.
  • Eat enough throughout the day, so you don’t have the urge to eat more at night.
  • Try not to eat while watching TV or scrolling through your Insta feed. This can make it hard to keep track of how much you’re actually eating.

A mindful eating approach might help you regain control over your eating schedule.

Does meal timing affect blood pressure?

You prob know that what you eat can directly affect your blood pressure (sorry salt). But the timing of your meals might also be a factor.

An irregular meal pattern might mess with or increase your risk of conditions including:

  • high blood pressure
  • raised cholesterol
  • type 2 diabetes

To reduce your risks, enjoy a mindful meal plan packed with heart-healthy foods. This can also lower your risk of blood vessel diseases or stroke.

Benefits of Eating Meals on Time

Maintain Proper Routine

Taking meals at regular times can help you maintain a better routine. You will feel more stress-free, acquire increased self-control, get a timely and sound sleep, and wake up on time for work.

Improves Digestion

Taking meals regularly gives enough time to your digestive tract to properly digest and absorb the meals and nutrients, respectively.

Reduce Fat Stores

Regular timing of meals helps to decrease fat stores in the body. When you take smaller 5 meals instead of 2-3 large meals, your body will use more fats present in the diet to provide energy, thus decreasing the fat stores.

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