Tricks For Timing Your Meals

February 25, 2013  |  
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Timing is everything in life, and that includes when you eat. Maybe you only consume 1,500 calories a day, but if you have them all in one sitting, you’ll find your weight oddly fluctuating. Maybe you eat perfectly healthy foods, but you eat them at odd hours when your metabolism just isn’t ready for any kind of food. To get the timing right, here are 14 tricks to keep a proper eating schedule.

Eat first thing in the morning

Consider your metabolism like a muscle: you need to warm it up before you can fully use it. Breakfast does just that. It readies your metabolism for the rest of the food you’ll consume that day.

Except for one exception…

On occasions when you need to wake up extremely early—say 5 in the morning for a flight—hold off at least an hour to eat. When you’re sleep deprived, your body needs a while to wake up before it’s ready to metabolize food. Plus if you have a long day, and eat your first meal at 5 am, you risk eating 7 or 8 times a day to fill the hours.

Try the 4/5 hour rule

Allow yourself 4 hours of no food between breakfast and lunch, and 5 hours between lunch and dinner. If you add food to your system before it has fully digested the last meal, it metabolizes the newly introduced food a little less efficiently.

Don’t eat dinner too late

You want to go to bed feeling satisfied, and just that. Not hungry, not full, but satisfied. So allow yourself a couple of hours after dinner to burn off some of those dinner calories and put yourself right in that sweet satisfaction zone. If you eat right before bed, those calories will all turn into fat.

Don’t eat dinner too early

In an attempt to drop weight, many dieters will adapt an early bird schedule, eating dinner around 5 or 6. But this just leaves them hungry right at bedtime. Think about it: if you eat dinner at 6 but go to bed at 10, that’s 4 whole hours you’re still awake and active. You’ll work up a real hunger in that time, and be forced to eat at bedtime or go to bed hungry.

If you’re up late…

On the weekends your schedule changes. You may have dinner around 7 or 8, but then you could be up with your friends until 2 in the morning. Forget the drunk munchies: you’ll be hungry simply by being up that long! Enjoy a small but protein packed snack. When all your friends are chowing down on cheeseburgers from a drive through at the end of the night, get the all white chicken tenders. Let yourself have this, or else you’ll wake up too early from hunger! And that’s never fun when you only went to sleep 5 hours before.

Fruit 30 minutes before

Just when you feel hunger kicking in before lunch and dinner, have a piece of fruit. Aim to do this 30 minutes before your meal. This gives your system enough time to register how much space that fruit took up in your stomach, it guarantees a certain portion of your meal provides fiber, and it will make you a little less hungry come meal time. You don’t want to approach mealtime too hungry, or else you risk overeating.

Eat 3 meals, no matter what

Even if you wake up at noon, have breakfast immediately. Have lunch at 3 or 4, and have dinner at 9. Those with unconventional schedules often fall off the 3-meal track. But this puts you at risk of weight gain. It doesn’t matter when you’re awake—if you’re awake for 16 to 18 hours at a time, you need three meals within those hours to keep your metabolism working.

Make lunch your biggest meal

It used to be believed that breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day. But recent research has shown that your metabolism can’t handle all that food first thing in the morning. It’s still waking up just like you are! Plus, the largest chunk of time that passes without food is that between lunch and dinner, not breakfast and lunch. So what do you need all that food for in the AM? Let your biggest meal be lunch. Odds are you’re most active between lunch and dinner, so you need the fuel most then.

Re-think the 6 small meals rule

Many people follow the philosophy that eating 6 small meals, instead of 3 large ones, throughout the day boosts your metabolism. If that’s not your thing, try this: when you’re coming to that point in your meal when you’re not sure if you’re full, stop eating. Wait twenty minutes. If you still feel hungry at that point then yes—you need more food. That’s the real idea behind 6 small meals. It helps you gauge your hunger more accurately throughout the day.

Eat slooowly

There is about a 15 to 20 minute disconnect between your stomach and your brain. Translation: you can be full before you realize it. And that puts you at risk of over-consuming. Some people consume as many as 300 calories too many per meal all because they eat too fast! Eat with a friend. Stop between bites to talk or sip on water. You’ll be shocked by how full you feel by much less food.

Dress, then eat

Don’t choose the outfit that hides your now bloated stomach. Choose the food that will keep that tummy flat. If you usually eat breakfast before getting dressed for the day, or eat dinner before getting dressed for the evening, reverse that. Put on the outfit you want to wear first, and then eat. You’ll be far more cautious about what you consume.

Drink a glass of water, then wait 20 minutes

Often what we feel as hunger is just dehydration. Instead of scarfing down a few hundred unnecessary calories in snacks, try gulping down a giant glass of water, then wait 20 minutes. If you’re still hungry, then grab a snack. But most of the time you’ll feel tied over until your next meal.

Start cooking early

If you wait until you’re ravenous to make a meal, you’ll often throw together whatever is easiest, and that’s also whatever is least healthy! And, since you took so little time to make it, you won’t feel you owe the food the respect of savoring it. When you feel that tiny grumble in your stomach begin, start planning and executing your healthy meal. Give yourself at least twenty minutes to enjoy prep time, cooking and clean up. Once you’ve dedicated that much time to the meal, you won’t want to rush through it and you minimize the risk of over eating.

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