The Best Time of the Day to Eat, According to Science

Are wondering what's the best time of day to eat? Continue reading and find out when you should eat each meal so you can maintain a healthy lifestyle!
The Best Time of the Day to Eat, According to Science

Last update: 04 July, 2021

In general, we’re often more concerned about how much and what we eat than about what the best time of the day to eat is. However, it turns out the timing of meals also plays a key role in maintaining optimal health. For example, science has revealed that establishing the best time of day to eat can be a strategy to deal with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Getting into the habit of a specific eating schedule is part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the body has a system of biological timers in every cell that control schedules for sleep, hormone release, heart function, and even eating.

They’re also synchronized with certain signals from the environment that indicate the best time of day to digest food, for example. As you can see, the body is biologically prepared for it. Thus, eating at the wrong time can compromise not only your digestive but overall health.

The best time for breakfast

Breakfast is about breaking the nightly fast. A group of experts claims the body’s biological timer is more efficient at digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing food earlier in the day. They refer to it as the active phase.

For example, the insulin that regulates blood sugar is higher in the morning. Therefore, eating breakfast helps establish the right amount of blood sugar, a needed energy load, for the rest of the day.

Be sure to eat breakfast between 6 and 10 am, as this is the ideal time to prepare you for the next meal a few hours later. You should eat at least one hour after waking up and include protein, whole grains, fresh fruits, and healthy fats.

A person having breakfast.
The ideal time for breakfast is between 6 and 10 am, according to scientific studies.

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What’s the best time of day to eat lunch?

Doctors recommend following a lunchtime routine. Research confirms that eating it outside the time established in the biological clock promotes obesity. Furthermore, eating after 3 pm hinders weight loss, so the best time to eat lunch so is between 12:30 and 13:30.

In addition, the time difference between lunch and breakfast should be around four-five hours. Include a snack rich in proteins and carbohydrates if you can’t. This is to avoid being hungry at that time.

The metabolism reaches its peak at lunchtime and this improves digestive function. Lunch should be lighter than breakfast and dinner.

Dinner time

Professionals recommend having dinner four to five hours after lunch. However, in order not to be so strict with the schedule, have dinner at least two hours before going to sleep to optimize the digestive process. The quality and quantity of food are also important since too much fat and carbohydrates could predispose you to weight gain.

The optimal times for dinner are between 6-7:30 pm. Eating dinner between these hours will give the body a chance to concentrate on resting and renewing its tissues, instead of having to work on digesting a large meal.

Moreover, the International Journal of Obesity reminds us that the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar slows down at night. Hence, people who work night shifts gain weight faster and are more prone to diabetes.

In addition, a review on the effect of schedule on obesity concluded that among the best foods for dinner are fish, fruits, nuts, and turkey.

These foods contain high levels of an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps secrete serotonin and melatonin. They’re relaxants and sleep inducers that turn fatty acids into energy.

A board with a chunk of chicken.
Eating turkey for dinner is good for preventing obesity, as opposed to red meat.

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Tips to keep in mind when deciding on the best time to eat

It’s important to emphasize that the response to a given dietary pattern varies between people. This means that what’s good for some may not necessarily be good for others. This is why the best way to set a schedule that promotes health is to work together with nutrition professionals.

In practice, it isn’t so easy to balance meals with a given schedule. Thus, here are some tips for everything to run smoothly and choose the best time of day to eat.

Let’s take a look at the following recommendations:

  • Make healthy changes. Once you discover you were doing things wrong and want to correct them, change your eating schedule to optimize it to your needs. In addition, include physical activities to see how your body behaves. Change your training schedule from morning to evening, which will help you relax if possible.
  • Prepare your meals in advance to be able to eat on time. This will allow you to stay on schedule and avoid unhealthy snacking.
  • Enjoy your meals. When you slow down and chew slowly, you digest better.
  • Keep healthy snacks around if you have to work and postpone the main meal.
  • Keep food in the fridge when you’re at work or carry a cooler in the car.
  • Remember the 4 to 5-hour intervals in relation to the last meal if you have to work at night.

Keep in mind it’s not just about quantity and quality when it comes to the food you eat; it can significantly impact your well-being. Therefore, planning a proper meal schedule should be part of your healthy eating habits.

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