2. When should I eat

Uncategorized Feb 05, 2020

When should I eat?

There are 5 things to consider about when you should eat 

  1. Frequency - How many meals per day are you eating? This can range from zero to 9 or more. You can see how fasting and grazing are represented throughout that range. 

  2. Spacing - How much time between meals and are you evenly or irregularly spaced? Take for example someone who eats breakfast and dinner at the same time every day but some days he eats multiple times between and others he doesn’t eat at all. 

  3. Size - How many calories per meal? Are all of your meals the same size or are some of the snack variety and others of the feast? 

  4. Macros - What are the macro breakdowns of your meal? Some meals may be high protein and fat whereas others could be just carbs and fat. 

  5. Relation to activity - When do you eat relative to when you workout? 


Taken together these 5 factors can be combined to form an infinite number of meal timing patterns. They can range from entire days of fasting to days of steady consumption called grazing. You will be exposed to a different strategy almost daily by various nutrition professionals. Some eat evenly sized meals evenly spaced throughout the day. Others eat big meals that fall far apart in their schedule. Yet some more eat one single meal for the day. Depending on when and how people exercise there are those who suggest eating specially before or around their workout. Know that the most elaborate timing scheme still only amounts to about 7.5% impact to your health. Hardly a total to spend a lot of time and energy pouring over. 

Meal timing is just not that big of a deal when your health is what you’re concerned with. For high level competitors and athletes looking to maximize their abilities it can play an important role but that segment represents far less than 1% of the population. If you are aren’t competing or making money from your physical abilities you don’t need to worry about your meal timing as much because you likely won’t notice a discernible difference in your health even if you did. 

Being overly controlling with your schedule and trying to plan every detail of your nutrition can do more harm than good. Day long fasts can leave you drained for work, exercise, and family time. They may also lead to binges that outweigh the time fasted. Schedules that suggest you eat every hour or two require so much preparation, planning, and time that the benefit they may provide to your health is offset by the sheer energy needed for adherence. Disrupting your work or day to eat is a recipe for unsustainability. Instead it’s more valuable to take a flexible approach to your meal timing.

Eat when you want. Not every day needs to be the same and should you eat against your plan you don’t need to worry when you know the difference in results from adhering to a hyper specific schedule and flexing to life's situations is small. Hyper rigid schedules are helpful for professional competitors but don’t pay off as much for those whose main priority is their health. Flexible schedules that allow for fasting, grazing, and feasting are where it's at. 


What does it mean to you?

There are 4 simple recommendations to follow about when to eat

  1. Eat 3-6 meals per day. Option snacks in there if you like. Choose a schedule you think you can best stick to and that fits your hunger patterns. 

  2. Spread your meals evenly throughout the day. This will promote energy and stifle cravings. This suggests you should eat breakfast and dinner. 

  3. Experiment with eating around your workout. Your primary concern is whether or not you can handle the digestion of food while exercising or if you prefer an empty stomach. The hype surrounding peri workout nutrition can be ignored. Adjust your food around exercise according to your preference.

  4. It’s OK to vary. Your meal timing can be much more dynamic than static. It’s popular to commit to a schedule that is the same for simplicity's sake but life rarely produces the same feelings day to day. Your nutrition doesn’t need to be so rigid. Flexing your timing to fit your needs makes your plan sustainable. 

Some people prefer to graze and eat consistently small volumes throughout the day. Maybe they are at home a lot and constantly have access to the kitchen or snack tray at work. Some wait, let their hunger build and feast once or twice a day. Often, fire, police, military, and the busy worker like this option because they don't have time to eat during their work or prefer not to break concentration. Others skip whole days of eating so they can freely combine fasting and feasting with no worry. These folks know water tastes best after some dehydration. Imagine how good your favorite foods would taste if you abstained from eating them purposefully for a day or two. Know this: Your body is an amazing machine capable of handling any combination of grazing, fasting, and feasting you can throw at it. As long as you hit your calories and macros first. 


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