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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Timing Your Meals

It's pissing rain and I'm stuck home today with Little A who seemed to have developed a fever minutes after I dropped her off at daycare this morning, but then seemed to feel better the minute I arrived to pick her up. I still had to cancel all my appointments for this afternoon and I'm taking her to see the doctor, just in case. Sigh! No matter, at least I have time to blog.

Fitness and nutrition myths annoy me. What annoys me even more is health professionals who propagate these myths. That eating in the evening makes you fat is a popular one that I hear repeated by health professionals all the time. I am sure you have probably heard that you should not eat after 7pm?

Ugh, this is so dumb! As if your body suddenly starts storing fat at 7pm! What happens when you go to a place in a different time zone?

No, no, no! The reason why eating at night can sabotoge weight loss/maintenance efforts is that it is the time of day when people are most likely to eat high calorie, low nutrition snack foods. Think about it: you are not typically going to eat a big bag of potato chips for breakfast or on your lunch break at work, but you may very well do so while watching the game in the evening.

The best times to eat meals depends on a number of factors, particularly when you exercise - which all of us should!

If you exercise after work at 6pm, you probably won't want to eat dinner before you do so, so you might have a light snack. If you don't eat dinner after you workout (because it's 7:30pm, let's say), you are probably going to be starving. Moreover, it is important to eat (both carbohydrates and protein) within 2 hours after exercise to enhance recovery and training gains.

If you exercise first thing in the morning, like I do, you may be wondering whether or not it's okay to workout on an empty stomach. The answer is: absolutely, if you feel good that way. Personally, I am not hungry at 5am, and eating something immediately before I exercise leads to bad things. But if you feel dizzy or nauseous on an empty stomach, than by all means, have a snack beforehand.

In order to keep energy and blood sugar levels stable, it is best to eat throughout the day. Some people prefer to eat 6 mini-meals, but most people do best with 3 square meals and 1-2 snacks.

You may have heard "eat breakfast like a prince and dinner like a pauper", with the message being that you should eat the bulk of you calories early in the day. But for weight loss, this has not been consistently found to be the case. If you eat 1,500 calories a day with 1,200 of them before dinner or 1,200 at dinner, it won't likely make a big difference to your weight. Of course, under-eating early in the day can make it tough to control your eating later on because you will become ravenous (as well as possibly weak and light headed!) and when you are super hungry, this is when most people crave sugary, fat-laden treats.

In any case, don't listen to anyone who gives you an arbitrary time of day when you should start/stop eating (or stop eating certain foods). Decide what's right for you based on your daily routine and what keeps you feeling energized, happy and healthy.