There is a lot of he said, she said, and myths floating around the world of nutrition and eating habits, and a lot of it has to do with when you should be eating your meals. Breakfast was always considered to be the most important meal of the day, but as you can see, that may not be the case.
This doesn't have anything to do with portion sizes, and we’re talking about when the biggest meal of the day should be. There’s no definitive, all-encompassing answer (when is there ever?) but we dug deep into a few bits of research to bring you information about when you should consider eating big meals. The truth is that with the advent of eating patterns that have shook things up like intermittent fasting we can already see that it’s more of what works best for you, than anything else.
We’re not all looking to lose weight, so this may not apply, but if you are then eating a big breakfast is a good idea. A lot of people choose to skip breakfast but it can be beneficial in two major ways. One, a study found that late lunch eaters lost less weight and displayed a slower weight-loss rate during the 20 weeks of treatment than early-eaters. Surprisingly, energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones and sleep duration was similar between both groups.
Another reason why it could be the smart choice to eat a big, nutritious breakfast is that if you are training you get all of your required nutrients directly after getting sweaty. Your body is in full pump mode directly after gym so for those who train early you’ll get to replace anything you’ve lost and get your blood sugar back to normal after sleeping during the night.
Thinking of eating loads at lunch? Well, most of us do because we get to take a break from our workday to sit and have a big meal, stocking up on the energy in a big way. If you refer to the study above, you’ll find that even though eating earlier causes you to lose weight more efficiently, the immediate effects of eating remained the same. So, you shouldn't be deterred from eating a lot at lunch. The only caveat would be that if you eat too much you will feel tired, and that doesn't make for a very efficient work environment.
Another study discovered that the consumption of higher energy intake at lunch compared with dinner may result in favorable changes in weight loss in overweight and obese women after a weight-loss program of 12 wk. The consumption may also offer clinical benefits to improve insulin resistance. Thus, eating a bigger lunch than dinner has its benefits from a weight loss perspective as well. Perhaps it is not as efficient as eating the biggest meal at breakfast, but the evidence is there that it could be the smarter decision if you’re deciding between lunch and dinner.
A deterring factor for eating too much at night is due to the fact that digestion takes roughly 3 hours and you may or may not be staying up that long. Therefore, it could be counteractive to your sleep cycle.
But, with that being said, a study did find that those who make dinner their largest meal tend to have an easier time maintaining muscle mass while dieting. Making dinner your largest meal may help you lose more fat and less muscle, resulting in a better overall body composition at the end of your diet. Like we said, it’s not all about weight loss, so if you’re looking to retain that muscle mass then eating a protein-rich meal before bed has been identified in aiding your development.
As you can see, the science is not cut-and-dry, because it is impossible to properly ascertain what is going to work for everyone. The reality is that we are all unique with bodies that adapt differently to certain environments, and the same goes for ways of eating. One thing to definitely avoid is overeating as it usually means you’ll have negative side-effects, rather than positive ones. Always try to be mindful of what you’re putting in your body and make snacking on healthy foods during the day a lifestyle.
Remember, a healthy diet can revolutionise your life, but it is also equally important to get enough sleep and to stay active throughout the day. Don’t allow yourself to stagnate as it will cause a ripple effect throughout your lifestyle that will promote poor health and fatigue. To stay on top of your game, find what works for you, internalize your plan, and focus on creating the lifestyle that will help you to reach your potential.