When you eat is just as important as what you eat
Your body requires discipline to be healthy. The consistency and timing of your meals/snacks throughout the day is key to keeping your body energized and happy and provides benefits to your overall health and wellbeing. Your body clock, metabolism and digestion interact in complex ways - meaning it's not just what you eat, but when you eat, that matters.
Keep a clearmind in a noisy world
8-16 rule Intermittent fasting, One Meal a Day Diet (OMAD) – too many diets and dieting rules nowadays have really impacted when and how often we allow ourselves to nourish our bodies. Not to mention also the different forms of restriction and limitation of ingredients in the diet. The reality is that our body DO NOT need a “diet”. We only need to eat, and eat accordingly to the time, season and geographical climate. This is it. It is referred as “law of nature- the dao” in the Traditional Chinese Medicine. Or in a simpler concept- the body clock and circadian rhythm. To synchronize with the power of nature, we are like sailing a ship with the help of wind and water in the right direction; on the contrary, out of tune with the natural rhythms, we spend extra energies fighting the flow and in the long run damage our health.
Boundaries and Discipline Give Freedom
In the past we had to sleep because it was getting dark; eat what are local and seasonal because that was the only food available. These days we have electricity and access to different type of food. We have all kinds of things that allow us to avoid following the natural rhythms. We think we are smart, that we are gaining more freedom, that we are living a better life. But the truth is, we are creating problems for ourselves. Humans have unlimited desires and we do need to be careful for what we wish for. By overlooking the natural law, we are going further away from the natural balance and get trapped in our own obsession. The negative impact shows on the human body, also the climate and geography. We thus spend more time and energy dealing with the damage, seeking medical care or remedies while suffering from pain and intensive disruption of the normal cycle. We don’t really have the freedom that we imagined unless we recongize and honour the importance of law of nature.
Why does meal timing matter?
We need a certain amount of energy each day, and at different times throughout the day, to thrive and function. Your body takes 3-4 hours to digest a meal properly. Having meal too short or long apart are both problematic. If you eat too often, it disturbs the absorption and distribution of nutrients. If you eat too long apart from meals, your body need to run on energy reserve and turn on the “emergency mode” which increase stress and force the body to store more energy. In the meantime, since energy is so limited, some other less urgent tasks could be delayed or shut down , and therefore in the long run, waste and toxins are accumulating in the body.
Eat on time, not on hunger
Ideally, your meal time should be 4-6 hours apart with the majority of food taken in the first half of the day. Inside every cell of your body, there ticks a molecular clock that regulates the timing of pretty much every physiological process and behaviour, from the release of hormones and neurotransmitters, to your blood pressure, the activity of your immune cells, and when you feel more sleepy, alert, or depressed. These clocks are kept in synchrony with each other, and with the time of day outside, through signals from a small patch of brain tissue called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). And its window on the outside world are a subset of light-responsive cells at the back of the eye called intrinsically photoreceptive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGs).
The point of all these “circadian” clocks is to anticipate and prepare for regular events in our environment, such as the arrival of food. It means that different biochemical reactions are favoured at various times of day, allowing our internal organs to task-switch and recuperate.
Most often when I ask patients to eat breakfast, they say that they not hungry. It could be a sign the disruption of natural cycle already. Regular meal time helps to promote regular digestion and the regular signaling and coordination. The body knows when to expect recharge and when to prepare for the work. 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. It overloads our digestive system, hurting our stomach, making the intestines overwork, causing the whole digestion inefficient thus causing bloatedness, stomach reflux, obesity, irritatble bowel, insomnia, chronic fatigue and many more health problems.
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.
The best time to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner
Breakfast: One should eat their breakfast within two hours of getting up. Not doing so can slow down your metabolism. The sooner you eat your breakfast after getting up, the better it is for your metabolism and overall health.
Lunch: Our digestive power is the strongest between 12 pm to 2 pm. At this time, the body is able to digest the highly nutritious meal and absorb all the nutrients properly. If possible, make lunch the biggest and richest meal of the day.
Dinner: One should finish their dinner latest by 8 pm maintaining a gap of 4 hours between lunch and dinner time. There should also be a gap of 2-3 hours between your bedtime and dinner. This gap helps in better digestion and in getting a good night's sleep.
Sample Meal Schedule
6am: Wake up
10-10:30am: Morning Snack (only if you get up very early or have a small appetite for breakfast)
12-1pm: Lunch (Preferably a warm and balanced meal, the biggest of the day)
3-4pm: Afternoon Snack (optional)