Chrononutrition for Better Health: What Are Its Advantages?

Discover the importance of optimizing meal times in order to increase the efficiency of metabolic processes.
Chrononutrition for Better Health: What Are Its Advantages?
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 04 August, 2022

Chrononutrition is a science that focuses on optimizing meal times to positively impact health. It’s a very new field that is still under development, but has evolved considerably in recent years. In fact, interesting discoveries have already been made in relation to metabolic function.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that meal timing may not influence the physiology of all people in the same way. There are genetic determinants that will affect the possible responses. However, a high percentage of the population will benefit if certain changes are made. Discover them!

Eat early to improve body composition

One of the first conclusions reached by researchers in chrononutrition is that earlier mealtimes have positive effects on body composition. A study published in the journal Nutrients confirms this. In this sense, lunch should be taken before one o’clock and the evening meal before nine o’clock.

The metabolism of sugars will be carried out more efficiently with these routines, which will help to prevent complex problems such as insulin resistance. This is the prelude to diabetes and can negatively affect the mobilization and oxidation of fats.

Consequently, there’s also a greater accumulation of fat in the subcutaneous tissue. In this regard, it’s important to avoid such changes in body composition in order to maintain a good state of health.

However, it isn’t only the time of intake that matters, but also the correct choice of the type of food consumed. In principle, priority should always be given to fresh foods. These have high-quality nutrients inside.

At the same time, they don’t contain simple sugars and trans fats, elements that tend to increase internal inflammation, as evidenced by research published in BMJ.

A man eating healthily.
Establishing earlier meal times than usual is associated with improved body composition.

The timing of carbohydrate consumption matters

Another of the basic concepts of chrononutrition has to do with the need to avoid consuming simple sugars in the evening. During this time, the body reduces its ability to metabolize these nutrients, so their effects on metabolism appear to be worse. Therefore, it’s best to take advantage of this time to meet protein and fat requirements.

However, it is true that there are specific genetic determinations that can alter the results somewhat. According to a study published in Nutrition & Diabetes, two different chronotypes can be defined according to the ability to metabolize sugars at different times of the day.

Thus, some people will be able to use these nutrients more efficiently in the morning, while others will benefit from consuming them as the day progresses. At the moment, however, there aren’t enough technological means to easily distinguish a person’s chronotype.

For this reason, the general recommendation is to avoid consuming simple sugars in the evening, as they aren’t usually used as an energy source at this time and the risk of accumulation is greater. In addition, dinner is usually a smaller meal, and so a protein and vegetable source is better to generate satiety.

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Chrononutrition in the management of diabetes

In the context of type 2 diabetes, chrononutrition appears to be decisive. Optimizing the timing of carbohydrate intake could result in maintaining stable blood glucose levels, which helps to prevent the problem from worsening or getting out of control.

Even so, some experts support the need to limit carbohydrate intake in the diet in general. This could be positive at a metabolic level.

However, in the next few years, more research may be carried out to provide an efficient pattern for the distribution of sugars throughout the day.

This won’t only benefit people with metabolic pathologies, but sportsmen and women will also find positive advantages. This will allow them to replenish their glycogen stores more easily and thus enhance their recovery process.

Some fruit.
Chrononutrition has shown positive effects on the management of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Chrononutrition, a determining discipline in health

As you have seen, the timing of food intake can influence the metabolism of nutrients, which has an influence on overall health. For this reason, it’s important to realize that the consumption of sugars should be avoided at night in most cases.

In this way, you’ll prevent the onset of pathologies such as type 2 diabetes, as long as other good lifestyle habits are maintained. Of course, it should be noted that it’s essential to avoid the consumption of poor quality foods, especially industrial ultra-processed foods.

These products contain a high concentration of simple sugars and artificial additives, elements that could interfere with the proper functioning of the physiology over the years. It’s important to cover the requirements in terms of essential nutrients in order to maintain good health.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Lopez-Minguez, J., Gómez-Abellán, P., & Garaulet, M. (2019). Timing of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Effects on Obesity and Metabolic Risk. Nutrients11(11), 2624.
  • de Souza, R. J., Mente, A., Maroleanu, A., Cozma, A. I., Ha, V., Kishibe, T., Uleryk, E., Budylowski, P., Schünemann, H., Beyene, J., & Anand, S. S. (2015). Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)351, h3978.
  • Henry, C. J., Kaur, B., & Quek, R. (2020). Chrononutrition in the management of diabetes. Nutrition & diabetes10(1), 6.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.